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Several Chinese-flagged fishing boats were involved in an altercation with a North Korean patrol boat in the Yalu River delta, leaving several missing and presumed dead. A source revealed up to four 30-metre-long Chinese boats “teamed up” to ram into a North Korean patrol boat near the city of Sinuiju.
The collision in late July reportedly led to several North Korean sailors being thrown overboard and their whereabouts remains unknown.
A source said: “The collision threw seven North Korean sailors into the sea and several are still missing.”
According to the insider, the clash was triggered by a financial dispute between the two sides.
North Korean patrol forces have been tasked with cracking down on the number of Chinese vessels entering its fishing waters.
However, Daily NK reports officials have previously demanded bribes ranging from £100 to £1000 for access to its territory.
Sources say the recent conflict was spurred on by the recent coronavirus crisis, which has led to fishing waters being deserted for several months.
It is claimed Chinese fishermen were told to pay an increased fee to make up for the loss on income since the pandemic.
The source said: “Fed up with the unreasonable demands from the North Koreans, the Chinese ships joined forces and rammed the patrol boat.
“The incident was serious enough that it led to missing persons.
“But we are only hearing about it now because both sides sought to cover it up.”
The patrol boat is part of North Korea’s 52nd Fleet and has been in charge of the waters in the West Sea for more the past five years.
The section had been under the control of the Navy, until Kim Jong-un redeployed its resources to the State Security’s Border Patrol Command in 2015.
Later this week, China’s top diplomat plans to visit South Korea for talks with new national security adviser Suh Hoon.
It will be the first visit by a high-level Beijing official since the coronavirus emerged in China late last year.
Top of the agenda will be security in the region as well as the denuclearisation of North Korea.
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Talks between North Korea and the US have stalled since last year, despite several landmark meetings between Chairman Kim and US President Donald Trump.
A US military report titled North Korean tactics has claimed North Korea has access to up to 60 nuclear bombs and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons.
The report published last month adds Kim Jong-un has the ability to produce six new devices each year.
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