Argentina announced that its naval forces sank a Chinese fishing vessel that was alleged to be navigating in Argentine territorial waters. The Chinese boat was intercepted on March 14, near Puerto Madryn, a port city in the province of Chubut in the Patagonia region of the South American republic. It is located approximately 900 miles south of the nation’s capital in Buenos Aires.
A statement issued by the Argentine navy indicated that the Chinese boat did not heed warning calls from an Argentine coast guard vessel. The Chinese rammed the Argentine ship instead. The Argentine vessel responded by firing on the fishing boat, sinking it.
Four sailors from the Chinese vessel were rescued and are now under arrest. They are to appear before a federal judge in Chubut, a province that is otherwise known for its fishing fleet and sheep herding. The Chinese nationals, including the captain, are to face charges from federal prosecutor Hugo Sastre of Chubut. The remaining members of the Chinese crew escaped on another Chinese vessel that was part of the same fishing fleet.
According to the Argentine navy, the last time it had sunk a foreign fishing vessel in its national waters was in 2000.
China is demanding an investigation. A statement appeared on the website of China’s foreign ministry that contended that the Argentine navy had pursued the Chinese ship Lu Yan Yuan Lu010 for several hours before firing on it. In the statement by Lu Kang, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, there was no mention of whether or not the Chinese vessel had tried to ram the Argentine ship GC-28 Prefecto Derbes or that it was fishing illegally. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy to Argentina have lodged urgent representations with Argentina, expressing serious concern, urging Argentina to carry out a full investigation immediately and to inform China of the details, to protect the safety and lawful rights of Chinese sailors, and to take effective measures to avoid similar incidents," the statement said.
Argentina Coast Guard ship GC-28 Prefecto Derbes
The Argentine foreign ministry has sent an extensive report to authorities in China, asserting that the Argentine coast guard had acted “under the strict rules of international protocol,” thus justifying the sinking of the Chinese ship. According to a statement from Argentina’s foreign ministry, “After the rendering of reports requested by China, the matter is now closed because Beijing has understood that the fishing vessel had violated Resolution 973/97 of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing,” said a statement from the Argentine foreign ministry. The law states that only authorized vessels may fish within the 200 mile territorial limits set by Argentina.
China’s ambassador in Buenos Aires, Yang Wanming, and Argentina’s representative in Beijing, Diego Guelar, have been in consultation so as to avoid any further cooling of relations between their respective countries. China is not expected to issue a formal complaint in the matter.
China has fishing vessels in seas all over the world, supplying hungry consumers in the United States and elsewhere. China’s navy has frequently asserted its government’s own claims over almost the entirety of the South China Sea, where it has laid claim to the Spratly Islands, among other islands. Several countries, including the U.S., The Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia have challenged China’s claims, even while China continues its program of creating islands of its own by dredging sand at atolls and sandbars and then building military installations on them. This has led to tense confrontations with the navies of the United States and The Philippines.
The video below shows a 2015 confrontation between the Argentina coast guard and the Hua Li 8, a Chinese fishing vessel that entered Argentina exclusive martime economic zone. The Argentines fired warning shots from a machine gun at the fishing boat. After four days' pursuit, it escaped into the waters of Uruguay. In 2014, the coast guard seized a Chinese vessel and 600 metric tons of squid. In 2014, Argentina likewise seized a Spanish vessel that was fishing illegally in its territorial waters.