China banned its fishing fleet from working in waters off North Korea’s east coast after the totalitarian regime demanded Chinese vessels buy fuel from North Korean suppliers.
The North decreed late last month that Chinese ships, which previously made their own fueling arrangements, had to abide by the rule, China’s Agriculture Ministry said in a June 28 announcement that was posted to its website today.
“Fishing boat owners and and businesses believe that the North Korean decision will have a serious effect on production and operations and job security, causing huge potential risks,” the ministry said.
The statement reflected Chinese concerns after North Korea seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew on May 5 and demanded a 600,000 yuan ($97,800) ransom. The ship and crew were freed later in May after Chinese diplomats negotiated their release, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The Agriculture Ministry said the situation in the area was “highly sensitive and complex” because of its proximity to South Korean, Japanese and Russian waters.
China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner and the two have been allies for more than 60 years. Ties have been strained this year after North Korea tested nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, leading to tightened United Nations sanctions.
A year ago, a North Korean ship seized three Chinese fishing boats with 29 crew and demanded 300,000 yuan to free each vessel, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported at the time.
— With assistance by Michael Forsythe