19:44 GMT +320 August 2019
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    South Korean helicopter shows 12 Chinese fishing boats (C) banded together with ropes to thwart an attempt by South Korean coastguard ships to stop their alleged illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea off the coast of South Korea (File)

    South Korean Military Shuts Down Chinese Illegal Fishing, Navy on Alert

    © AFP 2019 / PARK YOUNG-CHUL
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    South Korea launched a military patrol to repel Chinese fishing boats illegally fishing in neutral waters close to an area of the Yellow Sea disputed by North and South Korea.

    Four naval and marine boats entered neutral waters near the disputed area between the Koreas, to chase away ten Chinese fishing boats illegally harvesting profitable blue crabs, despite South Korea's numerous warnings.

    "Diplomatic efforts have met their limits… We've decided to enforce restrictions in cooperation with the United Nations Command," an unnamed South Korean military official said, according to South Korean Yonhap news agency.

    The chase operation has been sanctioned by the United Nations Command (UNC), which governs the effective no-man's land in Yellow Sea, overseeing the armistice since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

    "United Nations Command takes its responsibility to maintain the armistice very seriously. We had a responsibility to act and we are doing that," General Vincent Brooks, the US leader of UNC, said in a statement after the command authorized the operation.

    The operation began after two South Korean fishing boats captured and towed two Chinese fishing boats, handing them over to South Korean authorities several days earlier.

    Both Chinese and North Korean officials have been reportedly notified about the operation. 

    Personnel have been authorized to use force against Chinese fishing boats if they do not comply with verbal warnings, the South Korean official said.

    Currently South Korea is holding warships and helicopters on high alert, deploying in case of a skirmish with North Korea, he added.

    According to China's Foreign Ministry, Beijing has taken pains to education of fishermen about respecting international agreements.

    "China hopes that the South Korean side will execute the law in a civilized and rational way, and thoroughly protect the legal rights of Chinese fishermen, avoiding incidents that endanger personal safety," it said in a statement.

    According to the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, South Korean authorities seized about 600 Chinese ships last year for illegal fishing, and more than 100 this year as of May, most from waters off the western coast of South Korea.

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    Tags:
    Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), illegal fishing, navy, Yellow Sea, China, South Korea
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