SEOUL — A Chinese fishing boat skipper stabbed a South Korean coastguard officer to death and wounded another officer on Monday as they tried to arrest him for illegal fishing, officials said.
It was the second time in less than four years that a South Korean coastguard officer had been killed, amid increasingly violent clashes in the rich fishing grounds of the Yellow Sea which separates the two countries.
South Korea summoned Chinese ambassador Zhang Xinsen to lodge a strong protest, the foreign ministry said.
"This should have not happened. This is extremely tragic," a presidential spokesman told reporters.
The 41-year-old victim surnamed Lee was rushed by helicopter to hospital in the city of Incheon west of Seoul but died of organ failure.
The coastguard said it launched an operation early Monday to seize two Chinese fishing boats 85 kilometres (around 55 miles) off Socheong island, and managed to take control of a 66-tonne boat.
But the other boat suddenly rammed the seized vessel, prompting nine Chinese fishermen on board the captured boat to start attacking officers.
The 42-year-old captain broke a window on his vessel and stabbed the officers with a shard of glass, according to initial reports.
Lee suffered fatal injuries while the other victim, a 33-year-old, was stabbed in the stomach and was undergoing hospital treatment.
The coastguard later said the captain has been arrested for murder and violating the South's exclusive economic zone. It said it was unclear whether he used a shard of glass or another weapon.
"All crew will be detained for investigation and another boat that was at the scene has been seized so that its crew will be questioned about whether they were involved in the crime," said Ahn Sung-Shik, an investigator with the Incheon coastguard.
During his meeting with ambassador Zhang, First Vice Foreign Minister Park Suk-Hwan "strongly demanded that the Chinese government strictly clamp down on illegal fishing and the illegal acts of Chinese fishermen", a ministry spokesman said.
Park also urged Beijing to express regret at the incident and promise to prevent similar situations.
Zhang expressed regret and replied that he would "promptly and accurately" report Seoul's position to his government, according to the spokesman.
Illegal fishing by Chinese vessels is common in South Korean waters, with 475 boats seized so far this year compared with 370 in the whole of last year, according to official figures.
In October the coastguard said it used tear gas and rubber bullets to subdue Chinese fishermen wielding clubs and shovels. Some 21 Chinese were detained but later released after paying a fine.
In December 2010 a Chinese boat overturned and sank in the Yellow Sea after ramming a South Korean coastguard vessel. Two Chinese crewmen were killed.
Three Chinese detained after that incident were freed following protests from Beijing.
In September 2008 a South Korean officer drowned while trying to inspect a Chinese boat.