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.
China in recent years has claimed authority over both the Yellow Sea and the South China Sea while refusing to blame North Korea for two nasty incidents last year against South Korea. The first was the sinking of South Korean navy corvette the Cheonan in March 2010 with a loss of 46 lives, and the second was the shelling in November 2010 of Yeonpyeong Island, several miles from North Korea’s southwestern coast, in which two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed.
At the same time, South Korean commandos have been boarding Chinese vessels with rising effectiveness, imposing stiff fines that the skippers of the vessels have to pay on the spot. Already this year the South Koreans have imposed fines in 470 incidents, 100 more than last year. The killing of the commando on Monday echoed an incident more than three years ago in which a South Korean sailor was killed by the crew of a Chinese boat off of Mokpo, a South Korean port 200 miles to the south.