Compounding a flurry of low-level maritime stand-offs in the region, unidentified North Korean nationals are holding 29 Chinese fishermen hostage.
An armed North Korean party forcibly boarded three Chinese fishing vessels in Chinese waters on the Yellow Sea a week ago, and have demanded nearly $190,000 total for the boats. It is unclear whether the North Koreans are military or rogue civilians.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed reports of the hostage crisis today, and said it is working closely with North Korean authorities to secure the release of the Chinese nationals.
In less than a day since the announcement, Chinese micro-bloggers on Sina Weibo have circulated nearly a million related messages, illustrating public perceptions of Beijing's increasingly tense, nominal alliance with Pyongyang.
"Give them the money. There's no way to talk sense into
these small, trash countries," said user KongOushi, one of many commenters calling for Beijing to pay the ransom.
North Korea now joins the Philippines and Vietnam on the list of countries Chinese micro-bloggers claim are bullying China and its fishermen as part of long-running disputes over territorial waters.
"F*ck, if this isn't some bullying... This year, everyone is coming to China, trying to play the alpha male," wrote user smile-yoyo.
Between the ongoing campaign against illegal activity in China's domestic expatriate community and its maritime disputes with pan-Asian nations, a general disdain for the outside world abounds on Sina Weibo lately.
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