Japan searches for North Koreans

  • North Korea
  • Tuesday, 08 Oct 2019

Mission in progress: The Japanese Fisheries Agency vessel at the site of the collision with a North Korean boat off the Noto Peninsula. — AP

TOKYO: Japanese authorities said they are searching for several North Korean fishermen thrown into the sea off Japan’s northern coast after their boat collided with a Japanese Fisheries Agency patrol vessel and sank in an area crowded with poachers from the North.

About 20 North Koreans were aboard the boat, and an unidentified number were rescued by a Fisheries Agency ship after a search and rescue operation began, said agency official Satoshi Kuwahara.

Fisheries Agency officials yesterday said the Japanese patrol ship had no major damage and was able to move on its own.

The North Korean ship sank about half an hour after the collision, Japan’s coastguard said. It said some of its aircraft and vessels were headed to the area to join the search for the North Koreans.

The collision was in an area known as Yamatotai, off the northwestern coast of the Noto Peninsula.

The area is disputed between Japan and North Korea, which have no diplomatic ties. The two countries also have disputes over Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, as well as North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and the issue of the North’s abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.

The North Korean boat had made an unauthorised entry into the Japanese exclusive economic zone and the collision occurred just as the Japanese patrol boat was warning it to move out, Kuwahara told reporters. He said officials are investigating how the two ships collided.

Japan has stepped up patrols in the area in recent years as North Korean squid poaching has surged.

This year, ships from Japan’s Fisheries Agency and coastguard have been patrolling in the area since May, Kuwahara said.

Japanese fisheries patrol boats have issued nearly 500 expulsion orders to poachers, most of them from North Korea, between May and August this year, according to the Fisheries Agency.

Experts say the increase in North Korean squid poaching is due to the country’s campaign to boost fish harvests. The poachers are believed to be related to an influx of ghost boats that have washed onto Japan’s northern coast, fisheries officials have said. — AP

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North Korea , fishermen , collide , patrol boat , Noto


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