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S. Korea urges China calm after fisherman's death

SEOUL, Oct 18, 2012 (AFP) - South Korea on Thursday called for a "calm response" from Beijing after a Chinese fisherman was killed by a rubber bullet during a South Korean coastguard operation.

The foreign ministry also urged China to work harder to solve the "root cause" of illegal fishing by its ships in South Korean waters.

"What is needed now is a calm and measured handling of the incident and measures to prevent a recurrence," ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young told reporters.

"We expect cooperation from the Chinese authorities," he added.

The 44-year-old fisherman was fatally wounded Tuesday by a rubber bullet after coastguard commandos boarded two Chinese ships fishing off the southwestern coast.

The coastguard said the Chinese crew members had threatened the commandos with knives, axes, saws and other weapons.

China responded on Wednesday by demanding a full investigation into what it described as an example of "violent law enforcement" and urged Seoul to "bring the perpetrator to justice".

Cho offered the South Korean government's condolences on what he insisted was the "accidental" death of the fisherman.

"A calm response is needed after looking into the facts, instead of rushing to conclude the raid was... violent law enforcement," he said.

Twenty-three Chinese fishermen from two vessels were taken into custody and the South Korean coastguard said Thursday it would seek arrest warrants against 11 of them for "obstruction of justice".

Illegal fishing by Chinese boats is common in South Korean waters, and more than 130 boats have been seized so far this year.

In December 2010 a Chinese boat overturned and sank in the Yellow Sea after ramming a South Korean coastguard vessel. Two Chinese crewmen were killed.

And last December, a coastguard officer was stabbed to death in a struggle with Chinese sailors.

 

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