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Japan, South Korea in dispute over maritime vessel 'breach'

Japan, South Korea in dispute over maritime vessel 'breach'
South Korea's foreign ministry said Tuesday South Korea's Coast Guard engaged in "legitimate activities" after communication with a Japanese Coast Guard vessel in an exclusive economic zone claimed by both sides. File Photo by Yonhap

Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Tensions are running high between South Korea and Japan as the two countries enter a new dispute over maritime activities in overlapping coastal waters.

Kyodo News reported Tuesday a South Korean coast guard ship called on a Japanese survey vessel to stop its research activities in South Korea's claimed exclusive economic zone.

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The communication took place on Monday at about 3:25 a.m., according to the report.

The confrontation occurred southwest of Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture. The area is 86 miles from Japanese territory, and 78 miles from Jeju Island in South Korea, Korean paper Segye Ilbo reported Tuesday.

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Japan defended the survey and claims the ship was in Japan's EEZ, which overlaps with South Korean claims.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday the South Korean request is "unacceptable," and that the survey was taking place in Japan's EEZ.

Through diplomatic channels, Tokyo protested the South Korean government. Seoul said it has a right to ask for an end to Japanese activity. South Korea also said the ship needed Seoul's consent.

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South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam said Tuesday Seoul's Coast Guard was "carrying out legitimate law enforcement activities, in accordance with international law," South Korean news service Newsis reported.

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Japan's Coast Guard said the incident marks the second time South Korea has asked Japan to suspend maritime surveys since August. The Japanese government has also said it will continue surveys until the end of February, despite South Korean opposition, according to Japanese network NHK.

Tokyo and Seoul are also in a dispute over a court ruling in South Korea that came Friday, ordering Japan to compensate 12 South Koreans who were forced to work as "comfort women" in wartime Japanese brothels. Plaintiffs say the women were coerced, raped and beaten by Japanese soldiers.

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