In close communication

Updated: 2011-12-15 08:03

(China Daily)

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BEFORE THE REAL STORY OF THE RECENT CLASH between Chinese fishermen and coast guards of the Republic of Korea (ROK) can be uncovered, China's response to the incident has been appropriate.

The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday expressed its regret over the incident, in which a ROK coast guard was allegedly killed by the Chinese fishermen, and has pledged active cooperation with the ROK in conducting a thorough investigation.

"The Chinese side regrets that the recent incident caused the death of an ROK coast guard officer, which is an unfortunate event," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters in Beijing.

Liu added that Chinese and ROK officials are in close communication to resolve the situation and find out exactly what occurred.

Indeed, as long as the two sides cooperate closely and carry out their investigations based on objectivity and impartiality, there is no reason for this tragic incident to have a negative effect on the healthy trend of bilateral cooperation.

Regrettably, however, some responses from the ROK media and public have been over the top and media in the ROK have displayed a disappointing penchant for whipping up hostility towards China.

Some have likened the Chinese fishermen to "pirates" and on Tuesday, during a protest staged by right-wing demonstrators at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, a Chinese flag was reportedly defaced and there were calls for the shelling of Chinese fishing boats.

It is hoped such excessive responses will soon subside so as to pave the way for a healthy environment for the issue to be properly handled.

This was an incident that occurred between individuals and law-enforcement officers, and there should be a thorough probe to determine how the coast guard was killed.

Unfortunately, the public frenzy in the ROK risks escalating tensions to a nation-to-nation confrontation.

It will serve neither country's interests should the incident develop into a row between the two nations. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries and the cordial relationship Beijing and Seoul have maintained for almost two decades has benefited both countries.

As close neighbors across the Yellow Sea, skirmishes over fishing may happen from time to time. Indeed, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has been prompted by such skirmishes to make repeated calls for the ROK to safeguard the legal rights and interests of Chinese fishermen.

However, as long as both parties adopt a constructive approach, and such incidents are viewed with the proper perspective and treated in an appropriate manner there is no reason for them to adversely affect the friendly relations between the two countries.

(China Daily 12/15/2011 page8)