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High-seas stabbing of Korean commando worsens ties with China

The killing of a Korean coast guard commando by a Chinese commercial fishing captain is just the latest in a series of clashes, and reinforces popular Korean belief that China is a threat.

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Seething tensions between China and South Korea over fishing in the Yellow Sea escalated Tuesday with the killing of a South Korean coast guard commando by the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel in hotly disputed waters.

South Korean coast guard commandos finally subdued the captain, and seized his vessel and eight-man crew, said South Korean officials, but not until the leader of the commando team was mortally wounded and another team member was injured. The dying commando and the injured team member were flown to the port city of Incheon, approximately 100 miles to the east, in the same helicopter with the Chinese fishing boat captain.

The incident, the latest in a long series of clashes between South Korean authorities and Chinese fishermen, illustrated the rising confrontation in the fish-rich sea where North Korea has also challenged South Korean authority. South Korean analysts strongly question Chinese claims that such episodes are provoked by fishermen acting solely on their own with no support from their government.

The incident “reinforces the broader perception that the Chinese are a threat,” says Victor Cha, director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Mr. Cha predicts the incident will strengthen “the concern that Koreans have had that relations with China are not all positive” despite enormous commercial relations between the two countries.

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