For once, I’m mostly in sympathy with North Korea’s position. Chinese fisherman are notorious for invading the territorial waters of their neighbors, the Chinese government may well have grander plans to invade them, and the North Korean people certainly need those fish more than the Chinese do. (Leave aside the question of whether the fish would otherwise be eaten by hungry North Koreans or exported by the regime for hard currency.)
The North Koreans have impounded the ship, pending payment of a $40,000 fine, and sent the six crew members home — after they beat a confession out of the captain at gunpoint:
The captain also claimed that his ship did not enter North Korean waters at the time of the seizure and the North Korean coast guard dragged them into the North’s waters by force.
After arriving in the North’s waters, North Korean coast guard officers took photographs of them as “evidence” and ordered Yao to sign a document admitting the violation.
“I said no. And they hit me and pointed a gun at me. Then I signed,” Yao was quoted as saying in the online report. [Yonhap]
As a former defense attorney, I have to say this is one of the unlikelier stories I’ve ever heard. The North Koreans accuse the Chinese vessel of illegal fishing, and I believe them. The Chinese captain accuses the North Koreans of torture, and I believe that, too. As Kissinger once said, “It’s a pity they can’t both lose.”
The last time this happened, it wasn’t a very good experience for the Chinese fisherman, either — they spent two weeks in a North Korean jail. Still no comment from noted Chinese fish authority and asshole Shen Dingli.