Japan coast guard rescues flooded North Korea cargo ship

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Jan. 11, 2017 at 9:41 PM
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TOKYO, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Japan's coast guard rescued passengers on a flooded North Korean cargo ship, according to a local television network.

NHK reported Thursday, local time, a Japanese patrol boat rescued the passengers stranded on the ship in the Sea of Japan.

The 6,555-ton cargo ship sent a distress signal on Wednesday evening from a location about 37 miles southwest of Fukue Island, the southernmost of the Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture.

All 26 passengers were taken on lifeboats by dawn on Thursday. No casualties were reported, according to NHK.

Japan's coast guard said the vessel was carrying rice while sailing from Nampo on North Korea's western coast to Wonsan on the eastern side of the peninsula.

The cause of the ship's sinking is unknown, local authorities said.

The ship has stayed anchored about 6 miles from Fukue Island. The hull of the ship is leaning to one side but there is no immediate danger of further sinking, according to the report.

North Korea is currently under heavy sanctions, and North Korea cargo ships are completely banned from docking at Japanese ports.

Pyongyang wants the sanctions lifted, but it has also refused to give up pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.

Kim Jong Un recently raised the stakes in his New Year's speech while touting a readiness to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at an arbitrary time and place.

The provocations have prompted the United States to mobilize sophisticated radar, to monitor any incoming North Korea missiles, CNN reported Wednesday.

The sea-based X-band radar can detect long-range launches and collects intelligence, according to the report.

The technology is based in Hawaii and can only be deployed at sea for a limited amount of time.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter had said on Tuesday a missile would be intercepted only if it is "threatening."

"It may be more to our advantage to, first of all, save our interceptor inventory, and, second, to gather intelligence from the flight rather than do [shoot it down] when it's not threatening," Carter has said.

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