A Chinese fishing boat has capsized in a maritime scuffle with a South Korean coast guard ship trying to curb its illegal fishing activities, leaving two fishermen missing, officials said.
About 50 Chinese fishing boats were illegally fishing in western South Korean waters off Gunsan city, about 170 miles south of Seoul, when the South Korean ship approached them, coast guard spokesman Ji Kwan-tae said.
One of the boats intentionally hit the larger coast guard ship to allow fellow Chinese vessels to sail back to their waters, and then capsized, he said.
Eight people from the capsized boat were plucked from the waters, and one is unconscious, Mr Ji said. Coast guard rescue boats and helicopters were dispatched to the area to locate the two missing Chinese sailors, he said.
Mr Ji said coast guard officers fought with fishermen on other Chinese boats who wielded steel pipes, and four of the officers suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
A man answering the phone at the China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre in Beijing confirmed that a Chinese fishing boat capsized in the Yellow Sea and two Chinese fishermen were missing. China has dispatched a rescue boat and has asked South Korea to send boats as well, he said.
When asked about South Korea’s claim that the Chinese boat was fishing illegally, the man said other information about the incident was still being collected. He did not give his name, as is common with Chinese officials.
Calls to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul went unanswered.
More than 300 Chinese fishing boats are captured for fishing illegally in South Korean waters every year, according to South Korea’s coast guard. In 2008, one South Korean coast guard officer was killed and six others injured in a maritime scuffle with Chinese fishermen engaged in unauthorised fishing in South Korean waters.