Maritime incident with Japan settled

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Maritime incident with Japan settled

Korean and Japanese maritime police had a face-off Thursday near Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost islets also claimed by Japan, over a Korean fishing boat suspected of trespassing into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

The incident, however, was kept from developing into a diplomatic row between the two countries, the sources said, because the captain of the Korean boat admitted crossing into Japan’s waters after a joint investigation by both parties.

The two countries “agreed to resolve this issue according to the law,” said an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday, while playing down the seriousness of the matter.

“Things will get back to normal quickly if the captain pays a fine for trespassing,” the official said.

According to the sources, the boat, the 29-ton 33 Ssangyong, sent a report to the Korea Coast Guard that it was being chased by four Japanese patrol boats Thursday. The Coast Guard rushed to the scene, about 69 kilometers (43 miles) southeast of Dokdo.

The Japanese patrol boats claimed that the 33 Ssangyong was in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. When it was spotted by Japanese authorities, the 33 Ssangyong sped toward the Korean side, disregarding an order to halt, the sources said.

The two sides launched a joint investigation over whether the boat crossed into Japan’s EEZ and questioned the captain of the nine-sailor boat. Early yesterday, the captain admitted that the ship had been trespassing, the sources said, but denied that the boat was involved in illegal fishing in Japanese waters.

The reason the boat crossed into Japan’s EEZ is yet to be known, but a source said an engine malfunction had forced the boat to drift.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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