North Korea releases Chinese fishing boat and crew



North Korean flags fly at half-mast on fishing boats after the funeral of the late leader Kim Jong Il, at the Chinese North Korean border area near Dandong on Dec. 29, 2011.


Mark Ralston

North Korea released a Chinese fishing boat and its crew on Tuesday after the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry revealed that the vessel had been captured in early May.

The incident had the potential to further strain the North's relationship with its only ally, China.

Chinese officials asked for the fishing boat's release late Sunday.

The statement by the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry Sunday was the Chinese government’s first public acknowledgment that the boat had been seized by armed North Koreans.

The boat’s owner, Yu Xuejun, has been blogging about the hostage-taking on Chinese microblogging service Weibo for days, claiming that North Koreans are demanding he pay about $100,000 for the release of his boat and crew.

Yu wrote that the North Korean pirates he talked to over the phone were “rude and unreasonable,” The Washington Post reported.

He also expressed concern for the safety of his crew. “The captain of the seized boat communicated using a satellite phone, and when I asked questions, it was clear that he didn’t dare speak,” Yu wrote, according to the New York Times. “We’re afraid that the crew have been beaten.”

At least three other Chinese boats have been captured by North Koreans demanding ransoms of up to $50,000 for their release this year, unnamed police officials told the Southern Metropolis Daily, a Chinese newspaper, according to the Washington Post.

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