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Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 15:44 UK

China acts in disputed water row

By Shirong Chen
China editor, BBC News

Chinese fishing boats near the port of Qingdao - file photo
Chinese fishing boats often end up in disputed waters

China has banned its fishing fleet from working in waters disputed with neighbouring countries.

There have been disputes with North and South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines over maritime boundaries.

A North Korean patrol boat fired at a Chinese fishing boat and Seoul detained 11 Chinese suspected of killing a South Korean coast guard officer.

The fishing ban is Beijing's latest attempt to defuse regional tension amid concerns over its rising power.

'Pirates'

October is a peak season for fishermen along China's eastern coast.

They follow the migration route of the fish and very often land in disputed waters - illegally.

In the Yellow Sea and East China Sea, both South Korea and Japan have disputes with China regarding the boundaries of their respective maritime economic zones.

According to reports, more than 2,000 Chinese fishing boats and 20,000 fishermen have been detained by the South Korean maritime police in the past four years.

But things have turned so nasty lately that the Chinese fishermen have been compared to pirates by South Korean media.

In the South China Sea, Chinese fishermen have been detained by the Philippines in the disputed waters surrounding the Spratley Islands.

Similar disputes have been reported in Vietnam.

To prevent the disputes from escalating further, China's cabinet, the State Council, this week issued a directive for the coast guard and the fishery authorities to ban Chinese fishing vessels from entering what they called "key sensitive maritime areas".

The Chinese fishermen may feel they are now squeezed from both sides, but China desperately needs to maintain peaceful relations with its neighbours and calm their fears about its rising economic and military power.


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