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South Korea probes death of three Chinese fishermen in boat seizure

Disputes over illegal fishing have dogged relations between South Korea and China for years, and there have been numerous incidents of violent clashes between the coast guard and Chinese crew members.

A coastguard spokesman in the southwestern port of Mokpo said the Chinese boat had been spotted fishing Thursday in the waters of South Korea’s exclusive economic zone, and was boarded after ignoring commands to stop.

Coast guard personnel then threw stun grenades into the wheelhouse where the crew had barricaded themselves inside and were continuing to pilot the boat.

The wheelhouse structure caught fire and three of the Chinese crew died in the ensuing blaze — most likely due to smoke inhalation.

“The remaining 13 crew members and the skipper are in custody and being questioned. A forensic team is now ready to board the ship for inspection,” the spokesman told AFP.