In a rare public spat between the neighbors and longtime allies, North Korean officials have demanded payment before they will release Chinese fishing boats with a total of 29 men on board. The Chinese owners of the boats said they were seized by a North Korean gunboat on May 8 in the Yellow Sea, between China and North Korea.The owners said the vessels were fishing in Chinese waters. North Korea has not made any public comment on the case.
The North Koreans holding the boats and sailors demanded payment of 1.2 million yuan (190,000 dollars) for releasing them, then cut their price to 900,000 yuan and set a deadline of Thursday, Zhang Dechang, owner of one of the captured boats told a newspaper, which called the demand a "ransom".
The 29 sailors who were on board the boats are now in North Korea. The Chinese government would not publicly confirm any details about the reported incident.
"China is maintaining close contact with North Korea through the relevant channels, and we hope this problem will be appropriately solved as soon as possible," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily briefing. "We have also stated to North Korea that it should ensure the legitimate rights of Chinese ship personnel."
North Korea has used provocation and saber rattling very successfully over the years to get aid (money and food) from South Korea and Western powers. China is the key economic and diplomatic backer of North Korea, seeing it as a buffer against U.S. influence in the region but they may be making a big mistake this time. China is a major supplier of food aid and oil to the North, which remains isolated by sanctions over its nuclear ambitions and rocket launches.
China has been quietly pressing North Korea to scrap plans for a third nuclear tes according to sources with knowledge of closed-door talks between the countries. Pyongyang has sought to strengthen ties with Beijing through frequent visits and praise of their friendship, but the North can also be resentful about what it sees as infringements of its territory, and Chinese dominance of relations.
I just hate it when two friends like these have problems, don't you? The crazy guys in North Korea are playng with fire by "biting the hand that feeds them". Personally, I'd like to see them loose a few fingers...
And here is a small tribute to the late, great Donna Summer:
Live Long and Prosper....