TOKYO (Reuters) - A North Korean fishing boat sank on Monday after a crash with a Japanese patrol boat trying to chase it out of Japan's economic zone and some of its crew were rescued and some believed to be missing, Japanese officials said.
The Japanese coastguard did not give details about how the two vessels crashed in the Sea of Japan but a Japanese ministry official said the North Korean boat was fishing illegally in Japan's exclusive economic zone.
"Normally, we police illegal fishing with such steps as using water cannon or showing messages on electronic displays. This time, the contact happened while we were warning the ship to sail away," Satoshi Kuwahara, head of Japan's Fisheries Agency's enforcement division, was quoted by public broadcaster NHK as saying.
More than 10 of the fishing boat's crew had been rescued, Japan's coastguard said.
The coastguard had earlier said about 20 crewmen were adrift following the incident, which happened 350 km (217 miles) northwest of Noto peninsula in central Japan.
NHK earlier quoted Hiroyuki Suematsu, vice minister of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, as saying the boats had collided.
Search and rescue operations involving seven Japanese government ships and aircraft were underway, said a regional coastguard official.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Karishma Singh, Robert Birsel)
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