Oct. 21 (UPI) -- A North Korean ship was spotted in Japanese waters in late September and Tokyo filed a protest following the incident, Japan's chief cabinet secretary said.
Katsunobu Kato told reporters Wednesday the North Korean ship was one of several foreign boats fishing illegally in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone, NHK and Sankei Shimbun reported.
On Sept. 29, Japan's fisheries agency detected a ship west of Yamato Bank, an area northwest of Noto Peninsula on Japan's western coast, Kato said.
The Japanese official said Tokyo immediately filed a protest with Pyongyang. The boat was a North Korean government-owned ship, according to Tokyo.
Japan's authorities have been cracking down on North Korean and Chinese fishing vessels operating without permission in the EEZ in Yamato Bank. In 2020, a total of 3,468 Chinese boats have been detected in Japanese waters through Oct. 16, according to Tokyo.
North Korean boats have declined amid COVID-19. The Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday as many as 4,000 North Korean boats entered Japan's EEZ in 2019. This year, only one boat has been detected, the report says.
Satoru Miyamoto, a North Korea analyst and professor at Seigakuin University, said the steep decline in North Korean fishing activity indicates the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll.
Miyamato told NHK North Korea could be restricting fishing because of concerns in Pyongyang the virus could be picked up at sea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a tearful apology during the 75th anniversary of the Workers' Party for "failings," as the country carried out quarantine measures and restrictions. Typhoons and floods have also added to North Korea's woes.
Pyongyang's state-controlled Minju Choson reported Tuesday an expanded plenary meeting of North Korea's Cabinet addressed the details of the regime's 80-day campaign to overcome recent disasters and continue anti-epidemic measures. Quarantine must be implemented more fully, the cabinet said, according to state media.