SEOUL, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- North Korea sold its state fishing rights to coastal waters on both sides of the peninsula, according to South Korean intelligence officials.
Pyongyang earned about $75 million from selling its maritime rights to China and the measure is driving the surge in Chinese fishing vessels near the peninsula, Yonhap reported.
All money earned from the sales of sovereign fishing rights is going to the Kim Jong Un regime, South Korean intelligence officials say.
Sales of rights cover waters proximal to the Northern Limit Line, a disputed maritime border between North and South Korea.
South Korea's coast guard has been confronting the increased presence of Chinese boats in disputed as well as territorial waters in recent years.
A South Korean intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the rights are being sold through an "intermediary trading company" but that in the future North Korea is likely to be in direct charge of the sales of the rights.
North Korea has allowed Chinese boats to operate in its sovereign waters since 2004, according to the official, but the agreement does not cover the area near the Northern Limit Line.
The presence of about 900-1,000 Chinese boats near the NLL, however, indicates that the status quo has since changed, and that China has purchased additional fishing rights from a regime that is desperate for cash.
South Korean defense ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said Thursday that specific information cannot be shared with the press but confirmed the Chinese vessels are present near the NLL in the East Sea, or the Sea of Japan.
Chinese fishing boats were believed to have been in operation only along the western coast prior to the latest reports.
The presence of illegal Chinese boats in South Korean territorial waters in June resulted in an unprecedented joint action by the United Nations Command in June.