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china angered over fisherman’s death

South Korean maritime police last week fired rubber bullets to chase away Chinese fishermen illegally operating in South Korea’s offshore Exclusive Economic Zone.

One Chinese fisherman with the surname Zhang was struck in the chest by one of the rubber bullets and later died.

The Chinese government lodged a serious protest with the Seoul government, warning the South Koreans to behave and stop what Beijing called “law enforcement by violence.”

Chinese fishermen have been trespassing into the maritime economic zones of other countries in the region, including China’s communist fraternal ally, North Korea.

The clash with South Korean law enforcement was particularly tense because of the geographical proximity of the two countries.

In December, a South Korean maritime policeman was killed by a Chinese captain who resisted arrest, shocking South Korean society.

That incident prompted Seoul to equip its maritime police force with firearms while on patrol duty.

China vehemently objected to the measure and demanded that Seoul rescind the policy.

In response, the South Korean government decided to strip firearms from its maritime police force and instead began arming them with supposedly nonlethal rubber bullet launchers.

According to a police investigation, a total of five rubber bullets were fired during the recent incident with one hitting the Chinese fisherman who died.

The police report also stated that the specific type of rubber bullet used had no prior record of killing anyone hit by it.

Chinese fishermen are not usually armed but are widely reported to carry objects such as iron bars or machetes that are used to resist search and arrest by law enforcement authorities.

• Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at