LATIN AMERICA

China “seriously concerned” over sinking of fishing boat by Argentina

Beijing calls for “exhaustive investigation” into incident involving Chinese trawler

The Chinese fishing boat sunk by the Argentinean coast guard on Tuesday (Spanish captions).Prefectura Naval Argentina / EL PAÍS VÍDEO (reuters_live)

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The Chinese government has said it is “seriously concerned ” after Argentinean authorities fired upon and sank a Chinese trawler that had ventured into its waters earlier this week. Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Lu Kang published a statement saying his country was taking the matter very seriously. Both the ministry and the Chinese embassy in Buenos Aires have called on Argentina to open an exhaustive investigation into the incident.

Beijing has also demanded that Argentina “inform China of the details of the investigation, guarantee the security, rights and legitimate interests of the Chinese crew and take effective measures to avoid a similar incident.”

According to the Argentinean coast guard, the boat was ordered to shut down its engines but instead fled

The sinking took place on Tuesday when the trawler Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 entered the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone off Argentina’s coast while fishing for squid. According to the Argentinean coast guard, the boat was ordered to shut down its engines but instead fled. After chasing the trawler for several hours, the Argentinean authorities opened fire and sank the ship. Three crew members and the captain jumped into a raft and were later arrested. Other Chinese fishing boats rescued 28 crewmen from the vessel.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it had no information on whether anyone was injured or killed as a result of the sinking; Beijing has made no statement regarding the four detained crew members.

This incident is the first clash between China and Argentina since newly elected Argentinean President Mauricio Macri took office in November. During his campaign, Macri criticized former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for maintaining strong ties with Beijing but he has since changed his stance saying that the relationship with the People’s Republic is too important. China is Argentina’s second-largest trading partner, after Brazil.

Argentina’s Congress approved a new bilateral investment deal with China in March 2015 and Chinese firms have invested in the financial sector, mining, oil exploration and agriculture.

China is Argentina’s second-largest trading partner, after Brazil

In 2014, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $15 billion (€13.5 billion) including $5 billion in Argentinean exports to China. The South American country’s most important exports include agricultural and fishing products and raw natural resources while most Chinese exports are industrial products.

During his 2014 visit to Argentina, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed around 20 bilateral agreements, including one to extend a $4.7 billion credit line for the construction of two hydroelectric dams and $2.5 billion in loans for the Belgrado Cargas railroad line. The People’s Bank of China and the Central Bank of Argentina also agreed to a $11 billion currency swap. In December 2015, the Chinese bank agreed to exchange more than $3 billion in order to boost Argentina’s flagging reserves.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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