China Tuesday expressed regret over the apparent murder of a South Korean coast guard officer at the hands of a Chinese fisherman.

The Chinese side regrets that the relevant incident caused the death of an ROK (Republic of Korea) coastguard, which is an unfortunate event, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters. Currently the relevant authorities in China and South Korea are in close communication on investigating this situation. China is ready to work closely with South Korea to properly settle the issue, he added.

A small group of South Koreans protested outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul Tuesday. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak also vowed to take stronger measures against illegal Chinese fishermen.

President Lee told a cabinet meeting that South Korea would get tough on illegal Chinese fishermen, according to the presidential Blue House office.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Monday China was working to ban cross-border fishing, but also urged South Korea to fully protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese fishermen.

Seoul had summoned the Chinese ambassador to deliver a strong protest at the killing, the second such fatality in less than four years. In 2008, one South Korean coast guard officer was killed and six others injured in a fight with Chinese fishermen in South Korean waters.