Hundreds of illegal Chinese fishing boats enter waters near sea border between South and North Korea

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Beijing [China], May 28 (ANI): In yet another case of illegal intrusion by Beijing, hundreds of illegal Chinese fishing boats have entered the waters near the Northern Limit Line, the maritime border between South Korea and North Korea in the Yellow Sea.

Citing the South Korean authorities and fishermen, South China Morning Post reported that the Chinese fishing boats operating illegally along the sea border between South and North Korea are decimating local catches and damaging the environment.

In a development that has reignited a long-standing point of contention between Seoul and Beijing, a great surge of Chinese vessels has entered the waters surrounding the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea.

On South Korean estimates an average of 180 Chinese boats have been catching crabs north of Yeonpyeong Island, one of the five northernmost South Korean islands, every day for the past month, putting to an end a year-long hiatus that followed the outbreak of the coronavirus, SCMP reported.

"This is about three times as many as last year's number," said Shin Joong-geun, the leader of a fishermen's association on Yeonpyeong Island. "From this island, you can easily see fleets of Chinese fishing boats operating near the Northern Limit Line."

This year alone, South Korea's special coastguard has caught seven Chinese boats and forced another 360 to leave the fishing grounds near the Northern Limit Line.

South Korea's Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Moon Seong-hyeok said on Friday that illegal fishing must be "completely eradicated" and warned that from next year the country would employ drones and artificial intelligence to boost its maritime surveillance systems.

A South Korean fisheries ministry official said the renewed presence of the boats would be raised next month when the two countries held their annual meeting to discuss ways to clamp down on illegal fishing.

"Chinese authorities say they are making their utmost efforts to stop illegal fishing by Chinese vessels in our sea. In reality, it is quite difficult for us to deal with Chinese fishing boats operating near the Northern Limit Line, so we always urge Chinese authorities to double their efforts to stop this headache," he said.

The year after the launch of South Korea's special coastguard - made up of 400 maritime policemen and 12 vessels including three high-speed armoured boats - illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea reportedly fell 60 per cent. However, since then observers in South Korea say the problem has been getting worse.

Although Beijing denies any illegal activity, the United Nations Security Council said in a report it suspected North Korea was selling hundreds of fishing permits a year to fleets from the likes of China to fish in the waters - in violation of international sanctions.

The two Koreas agreed in 2018 to turn the fishing grounds near the Northern Limit Line into a joint fishing area to resolve the issue, but no progress has since been made due to continuing tensions over the North's nuclear development, SCMP reported.

China has also been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing's concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions. (ANI)