It is an incident that both South Korea and China have an interest in putting behind them. South Korea needs China to exert some form of restraint on North Korea. China would not like to see South Korea more firmly ensconced in the growing alliance system in Southeast Asia bent on containing China and led by the US and Japan.
However, the South Koreans were furious when the Chinese captain of a boat suspected of illegally fishing in South Korean waters stabbed one South Korean Coast Guard officer to death and wounded another. A similar incident had occurred in 2008.
Korean demonstrators chanted slogans and defaced a Chinese flag in a demonstration at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul. A round from an air rifle apparently was fired at the South Korean embassy in Beijing, breaking a window. China increased security around the embassy in response.
The South Koreans claim that pollution and overfishing have decimated fish stocks near the Chinese coasts and pollution has lowered productivity in fish farms. As a result Chinese vessels now intrude into South Korean and Japanese fishing zones.
To deter boarding, Chinese fishermen are armed with sharpened bamboo staves, axes, sickles and metal pipes. The Chinese have promised repeatedly to "increase awareness and education" among Chinese fishermen.
The problem persists because China does not prevent thousands of her fishing boats from entering the economic zone of other countries. Only recently, South Korea dispatched a key Foreign Ministry official to protest the situation and the Chinese ambassador in South Korea was called in also for the purpose of hearing an official protest.
South Koreans threatened to cancel the visit to China by President Lee Myung-Bak. The South Korean officials explain"If we leave things as they are any longer, this will have bad effects on the Seoul-Beijing relations and damage the government's credibility."
The Chinese have so far sufficed with "regret", a step that falls short of acknowledging responsibility. Liu Weimin, spokesperson of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, "China’s fishing authorities have taken measures to strengthen efforts to instruct fishermen with laws and to tighten regulations on vessels fishing in the sea to prohibit cross-border fishing and irregularities. Meanwhile, we hope South Korea will fully protect Chinese fishermen’s rights and treat them in a humane way."
The South Korean demonstrators harbor no humane sentiments for the Chinese "pirates" and would send them to the deep via military force asap.