World

Argentina sinks Chinese ship after high-seas chase

Buenos Aires: Argentina's coast guard has sunk a Chinese trawler that was fishing illegally within its territorial waters, the coast guard said on Tuesday, marking a first test for relations between recently elected President Mauricio Macri and Beijing.

In a high-seas chase, a coast guard vessel on Monday pursued the fishing vessel Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 toward international waters, firing warning shots across the Chinese boat's bow as it attempted to raise the crew by radio.

Argentina navy sinks Chinese ship

High-seas chase and alleged dangerous manoeuvres ends with shots fired into the hull of a rogue Chinese trawler.

"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," the coast guard said in a statement.

It was not clear if the vessel sank on Monday or Tuesday.

The Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010, right, was sunk by the Argentinian coast guard, left, after it was found fishing illegally.
The Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010, right, was sunk by the Argentinian coast guard, left, after it was found fishing illegally. Photo: PNA

The coast guard, or Prefectura Naval Argentina, is headed by army generals and is part of the Argentinian Defence Ministry.

Mr Macri's centre-right government, which took office in December, will likely be keen to avoid a diplomatic ruckus with the Asian powerhouse which has gained a strong foothold in South America, traditionally the United States' backyard.

Relations between Argentina and China tightened under former leftist leader Cristina Kirchner. While Mr Macri promised during last year's presidential race to review all new contracts with China, he has shown no sign of doing so. Among those deals were an agreement to finance and build two nuclear power plants in Argentina in a deal worth up to $US15 billion ($20 billion).

A spokesman for Argentina's foreign ministry said the judiciary was investigating the incident. Officials at the Chinese Embassy in the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, were not available for comment.

A screengrab of video by Argentina's navy showing the Chinese fishing boat Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 in the navy's crosshairs ...
A screengrab of video by Argentina's navy showing the Chinese fishing boat Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 in the navy's crosshairs off the coast of Puerto Madryn. Photo: PNA/AP

In China, the foreign ministry expressed "serious concerns" and called for a full investigation into the incident.

Coast guards using radar picked up the trawler fishing off the coast of Puerto Madryn, Chubut province, an Argentina-exclusive fishing zone known for squid.

The Marine Traffic website shows the ship left Cape Town on February 23. It had been in the southern waters of the Atlantic Ocean for at least three months, having arrived and departed Punta Arenas, on Chile's southern tip, in December.

Shots were fired into the hull of the boat after it ignored radio calls to allow the coast guard to board and repeated warning fire. The crew abandoned ship when the vessel began to go down.

Four crewmen were rescued by the coast guard while others were picked up by another Chinese vessel shadowing the pursuit.

China has the world's largest distant water fishing fleet, with more than 2000 vessels, the not-for-profit group Stop Illegal Fishing said last year.

Reuters, Fairfax Media

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