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China’s fishing boats often carry out operations on behalf of the government to provoke other countries, as in a recent spat with the Philippines near Scarborough Shoal.

China has territorial disputes with virtually all of its maritime neighbors, including its communist ally North Korea, where Chinese fishermen occasionally are detained by the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang.

South Korean maritime police in recent months were involved in a few high-profile confrontations with several Chinese fishing vessels operating illegally.

Last year, a Chinese captain fatally stabbed a South Korean maritime police officer during a search operation. Soon after that, a Chinese fisherman was killed by a rubber bullet fired by a South Korean maritime policeman.

Most of the Chinese fishing vessels operate at night to evade detection and capture by the South Korean police, according to South Korean police sources.

Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.