Chinese fisherman feared dead after sinking

08:27, December 23, 2010      

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The missing Chinese fisherman whose boat sank after a collision with a Republic of Korea (ROK) patrol vessel over the weekend is feared dead, said an official from the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center (CMSRC).

"We still haven't found him," a spokesman from the CMSRC told China Daily. He said the chance of the fisherman's survival is "slim".

Seoul on Wednesday said it is willing to conduct a "joint investigation" with China into the sinking, according to the ROK's Yonhap News Agency.

But Beijing has yet to receive any "invitation".

"We haven't received any invitation from the ROK regarding a joint investigation," a spokesman from the Fishery Administration under the Ministry of Agriculture told China Daily.

The source said the two sides should "work closely with each other" to investigate into the incident.

The spokesman said it would be inconvenient to make any comment "before the incident is fully studied".

"But we hope the ROK refrains from releasing false information or making irresponsible remarks," he added.

Yonhap said the 63-ton Chinese boat Liaoyingyu 35403, which overturned and sank on Saturday after colliding with a 3,000-ton ROK coast guard vessel, was "operating illegally" in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

But the report added that the site of the sinking was not inside the EEZ.

One fisherman, the captain of the trawler, was confirmed dead immediately after the rescue, while eight others were pulled out of the water in two groups respectively by a nearby Chinese boat and the ROK guard vessel. Local coast guard officials questioned the three rescued fishermen from the vessel.

"According to our knowledge, the incident occurred in the waters that fall into the fisheries agreement between China and the ROK," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said on Tuesday.

"Under the ROK-China Fishery Agreement, both countries' fishing boats are allowed to work in this water Chinese and ROK authorities respectively regulate their own fishing boats, and can report each other's illegal activities in the water - but neither is authorized to exercise law enforement on the other country's fishing boats."

Jiang said the ROK must "bring the perpetrators to justice, make compensation for the loss of our property and take concrete efforts to prevent such instances from reoccurring".

The incident "has no direct impact on the current situation on the Korean Peninsula", Jiang said.

The ROK government does not intend to make a diplomatic dispute out of the incident and wants to resolve the case in cooperation with China, Yonhap said.

Jin Zhu contributed to this story.

By Ai Yang, China Daily
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