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At least 20 North Koreans rescued after collision with Japan's coast guard

By Elizabeth Shim
At least 20 North Koreans rescued after collision with Japan's coast guard
More North Korean boats are fishing illegally in Japan-claimed waters, according to Tokyo authorities on Monday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Japan's coast guard rescued North Koreans after their fishing boat sank during a collision in Japan-claimed waters.

The collision took place in the Sea of Japan on Monday morning, off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, Mainichi Shimbun reported.

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More than 20 North Korean crew members "jumped into the sea" as their boat sank, but not all North Koreans were rescued, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Japan's coast guard's search for all the missing men are ongoing, the agency has said.

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The coast guard and Japan's fisheries agency said the North Korean boat collided with a Japanese vessel, the Okuni, about 217 miles from the Noto Peninsula. The collision took place at 9:10 a.m., and the boat was submerged under water by 9:30 a.m., 20 minutes after the crash, authorities said.

Japanese authorities said the North Koreans were on board a squid boat and were fishing illegally. The collision occurred as the coast guard warned the North Korean boat to leave Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ.

"A collision occurred while warning a North Korean fishing boat to leave the EEZ," said Satoshi Kuwahara, a fisheries enforcement division manager, according to Yonhap's Japanese correspondent.

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Taku Eto, Japan's minister of agriculture, said the North Korean boat was headed straight for the Japanese coast guard vessel, before colliding and sinking at sea.

Kyodo News reported the 9th Regional Japan Coast Guard rescued at least 20 North Korean crew members but a few other people remain missing. Tokyo has deployed one plane, a helicopter, three patrol ships and four vessels of the fisheries ministry to conduct a search for missing persons, according to the report.

Japanese authorities say the rescued North Koreans will be "transferred" in accordance with international treaties.

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In August, a North Korea-flagged speed boat was identified and warned in the area close to Yamato Ridge, where a "number of illegal fishing incidents" involving North Korean and Chinese boats have been reported, according to the Mainichi.

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