Tokyo protests North Korean fishing after collision

Noto Peninsula. Credit: AISLive Ship Tracker

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to keep out North Korean vessels from fishing illegally in his country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Noto Peninsula, after one such vessel collided with a Japanese patrol vessel on 7 October 2019. IHS Markit’s AISLive shows the Noto Peninsula where the incident took place.

At a Diet session on 8 October 2019, Abe said his government had lodged a protest with the North Korean embassy in Beijing. China is the only country to have diplomatic relations with North Korea, whose totalitarian government has reportedly been pushing for greater seafood catches.

60 North Korean fishermen fell into the sea when their vessel collided with Okuni, a patrol vessel from the Japanese Fisheries Agency. The number was triple that of earlier estimates by Japanese officials. The fishermen clung to life boats as the fishing vessel capsized.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Taku Eto said that the fishing vessel had changed course suddenly, resulting in the collision. Earlier, the patrol vessel had warned the fishing vessel to get out of the EEZ. As the EEZ is subject to international law, the fishermen could not be detained by Japanese authorities. They were thus sent back to North Korea.

The patrol vessel has returned to Niigata port without apparent damage, although the fishing vessel is being inspected by the Japanese side. The incident happened amid rising tensions between North Korea and its neighbours, with the isolated nation testing a ballistic missile on 2 October.

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