Chinese fishermen are regularly getting into spats over their choice of fishing ground. In a well publicised case (see WiC78), one fishing boat captain was detained by the Japanese for casting his nets in disputed waters. More recently a fishing row has been causing a fracas with the Philippines over waters close to the Scarborough Shoal (see page 6). But of all their neighbours the Chinese would probably have least expected trouble from the North Koreans, for whom China is just about the only friendly face. Wrong: last week it emerged that 29 Chinese fishermen had been taken captive at sea by North Koreans, with a ransom of Rmb1.2 million demanded for each Chinese boat. This probably came out of leftfield for Beijing’s foreign ministry, whose top officials must have quickly got on the phone to Kim Jong-un (“Not even your dad would have done something this crazy,” is how WiC likes to imagine the conversation began). Whatever they said, it worked. Earlier this week the hijackers returned the Chinese sailors, ransom apparently unpaid.
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