According to Russian media reports, a fishing boat flying a Chinese national flag was shot at by a Russian patrol ship Monday in Russia's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan. The boat and the crew are currently in the custody of Russian authorities. Russia claimed the fishing boat was fishing illegally and trying to flee. The Russian side fired warning shots. No further information is available at the moment.
Illegal fishing by Chinese fishermen occurs frequently in that area, but few incidents have led to such serious consequences. In most cases, the Russian side releases the detained ship and crew after imposing a fine.
But still, firing at a fishing ship is a violent form of law enforcement and is unacceptable. In the sea area where fishery disputes frequently happen in Northeast Asia and East Asia, patrol ships directly firing at fishing ships is rare. Russian authorities are probably the most reckless in this regard.
In 2009, also in the Sea of Japan, a Russian patrol ship sank a Chinese ship suspected of smuggling, resulting in seven people dead or missing.
We don't believe the Russian border patrol authorities specifically target Chinese ships. But it is unacceptable, regardless of what country's ship they were aiming at.
It is a civilized world. By creating fear through firing at civilian ships, Russia is displaying a wrong image.
The China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership needs to be fostered by the two governments as well as the public from both sides. Though the Chinese public is well aware of Russia's friendly policy toward China, Russia also exerts an image of rudeness among Chinese people. This impression will be further reinforced by this shooting incident.
Chinese fishermen have their share of the blame. They need a better understanding of international law. When being chased by armed ships, risky actions must be avoided.
However, under no circumstances should Chinese fishermen be punished by bullets or even artillery fire.
In 1983, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 civilian airliner. Now Russia, for at least the second time, has fired on a Chinese civilian ship. Such conduct will stay in the memory of people in Northeast Asia.
Generally, Chinese society is friendly toward Russia and supports the two countries' strategic cooperation. The aggressive behavior by some Russians at the grass-roots level not only harms Chinese confidence in fostering a long-term friendship with Russia, but also provides excuses for forces seeking to undermine China-Russia ties.
We hope that Chinese diplomatic authorities accelerate their investigation into the latest incident, and hold firm negotiations with Russia. Russian border patrol authorities should not fire at Chinese fishing vessels, whether they crossed the border or not.