In this Oct 7, 2019 photo released by Japan's Fisheries Agency, crew members, bottom right, of the agency work to rescue fishermen whose boat collided with a Japanese patrol vessel off the northwestern coast of the Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan. (FISHERIES AGENCY VIA AP)
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that Tokyo has lodged a protest with Pyongyang over a collision between a fishing boat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) that illegally entered Japan's exclusive economic zone and a Japanese patrol boat, pledging to step up measures against foreign poachers.
Japanese authorities on Monday rescued about 60 DPRK fishermen who were thrown to the sea after their ship collided with a Japanese Fisheries Agency inspection vessel and sank in Japan's exclusive economic zone off the country's northern coast.
The government of Japan will continue to respond resolutely to prevent illegal operations by foreign fishing boats inside of our exclusive economic zone.
Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister, Japan
Abe told parliament on Tuesday that the authorities helped the fishermen onto another DPRK ship and let them go rather than arrest them for criminal investigation due to lack of evidence showing illegal fishing.
But Abe said that doesn't mean Japan is looking the other way.
"The government of Japan will continue to respond resolutely to prevent illegal operations by foreign fishing boats inside of our exclusive economic zone," he said, adding that Tokyo protested to Pyongyang via a diplomatic channel in Beijing.
Japan and the DPRK have no diplomatic ties. The two countries have disputes over Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, as well as the DPRK’s nuclear and missile development and its abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. Abe has been pushing for his first summit with DPRK leader Kim Jong-un to resolve the abduction issue.
Japan's exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, is a 322-kilometer zone where it has the right to all resources, from fish to natural gas.
The site of Monday's collision, near an area known as a rich ground for squid fishing, has been crowded with DPRK poachers in recent years. Experts say the increase is due to Pyongyang's campaign to boost fish harvests.
This Oct 7, 2019 photo released by Japan's Fisheries Agency shows a fishing boat which collided with a Japanese patrol vessel off the northwestern coast of the Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan. (FISHERIES AGENCY VIA AP)
"It makes me angry when I imagine the Japanese fishermen's concerns," said Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Taku Eto, referring to the DPRK ship's entry into the EEZ on Monday.
The Japanese Fisheries Agency's patrol ship returned to a nearby port Tuesday for inspection. Television footage showed no major external damage to the ship except for some scratches on its bow, though it was not immediately known if they were caused by the collision.
Coast guard officials were expected to ask the patrol ship's captain and crew members to provide details of how the collision occurred.
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