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It’s troublesome when Chinese trawlers show up in the most dangerous waters off the Korean Peninsula. It’s even more alarming when they’re gone.

“It’s a bad omen,” said Choi Ohk-sun, a 65-year-old resident on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. The last time that happened was a decade ago, when North Korean artillery rained down on the island, destroying homes a few minutes’ walk from where Choi was picking mulberries late last month.

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