Argentina’s coast guard confirmed yesterday that it had pursued and subsequently sank a Chinese fishing vessel it said was fishing illegally in territorial waters.
The incident has caused “serious concerns” in China, which demanded a “thorough investigation”.
In a statement released yesterday, the coast guard said that it caught the ship in the act of illegal fishing and pursued it while attempting to make contact.
The statement reads: “the vessel was hailed over radio (in Spanish and English) and both visual and audio signals were sent to make contact. However, the vessel turned off its fishing lights and proceeded to flee towards international waters without responding to repeated calls over various frequencies.”
It continues: “on several occasions, the offending ship performed manoeuvres designed to force a collision with the coast guard, putting at risk not only its own crew but coast guard personnel, who were then ordered to shoot parts of the vessel.”
Several shots were fired into the hull of the Chinese ship, causing it to sink. All 32 crew members were rescued, four by the Argentine Coastguards and 28 by other Chinese ships.
Speaking to BBC Mundo, the chief of Argentine coast guard service, Mario Farinon, provided further details of what took place.
He reports that the boat chase began at 10:08pm local time on Sunday night when it was caught squid fishing illegally in the Exclusive Economic Zone and was sunk “after many hours of warning shots “at 6pm this Monday.”
“In 30 years it’s the first case of this kind. It is madness which we do not understand,” said Farinon.
He added that: “Everything indicates that they had communications because there were other ships coming to assist, it appears someone was talking and they immediately changed course and headed for a another ship, despite the fact we had warned them not to do it.”
The Chinese foreign ministry has requested that Argentina “investigate thoroughly” the events surrounding the sinking of a Chinese vessel, in a statement released on Wednesday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang corroborated that the action had taken place. He confirmed there were no casualties, with four members of the crew being rescued by the Argentine coast guards and 28 others were also rescued in the process.
“The Foreign Ministry and the Chinese embassy in Argentina have lodged urgent representations to Argentina, expressing grave concern over the incident and requesting Argentina to immediately and thoroughly investigate the case, inform China of the details, effectively ensure the safety and lawful rights of the Chinese crew, and take effective measures to prevent any such cases from happening again,” Lu Kang said.