SEOUL, Sept 30 Three Chinese fishermen were
killed on Thursday in a fire that broke out on their boat when
South Korean coastguard men trying to apprehend them for illegal
fishing threw flash grenades into a room they were hiding in, a
South Korean official said.
The three men were believed to have suffocated, a coastguard
official in the South Korean port city of Mokpo said, adding
that the incident was being investigated.
Disputes over illegal fishing are an irritant in relations
between China and U.S. ally South Korea, even as their economic
relations grow close. They also share concern about North
Korea's nuclear weapon and missile programmes.
The fire broke out in the boat's steering room, said the
official, who is not authorised to speak with media and declined
to be identified, told Reuters by telephone.
A Chinese embassy official in Seoul could not be reached for
comment and China's foreign ministry in Beijing did not
immediately respond to a request for comment.
South Korean authorities were questioning the 14 surviving
crew and coastguard members involved in the operation, the
South Korean coastguard vessels regularly chase Chinese
boats for fishing illegally and violent confrontations have
occurred in the past.
The Chinese boat, caught fishing in waters off the southwest
of the peninsula, about 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Hongdo
Island, would be brought in to a South Korean port later on
Friday, the official said.
In June, South Korea and the United Nations Command, which
overseas the Korean War armistice, launched a joint operation to
keep Chinese fishing vessels from operating illegally off South
Korea's west coast.
That came after South Korean fishermen, frustrated with
incursions by Chinese boats in defiance of coastguard warnings,
impounded two Chinese trawlers and handed them over to
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Tony Munroe, Robert