• Kyodo


Transport minister Chikage Ogi on Monday inspected the North Korean spy ship that was salvaged last month from the East China Sea and is now moored at a private dockyard in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Ogi, minister of land, infrastructure and transport, inspected the ship together with Kenichi Fukaya, chief of the Japan Coast Guard. The coast guard operates under the auspices of the transport ministry.

During the inspection, Ogi offered words of encouragement to the coast guard personnel in charge of the investigation.

The coast guard will seek to determine the navigation route and purpose of the ship, which sank Dec. 22 after a gunbattle with patrol vessels.

After being raised from the seabed some 390 km from the island of Amami-Oshima in Kagoshima Prefecture on Sept. 11, the ship was kept in a tank while coast guard officials carried out safety checks.

The vessel was brought ashore to the dockyard Sunday for more examinations.

Ogi said a prepaid mobile phone found on the ship was a Toshiba Corp. product.

Two rubber dinghies found on the ship bearing the Achilles brand-name were also made in Japan. Despite having been manufactured some time ago, the dinghies were in near-perfect condition, she said.

Thus far, more than 700 items have been recovered from the ship, including a number of pins bearing the image of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and a large cache of weapons and ammunition, including portable ground-to-air missile launchers and bullets.

Japan has concluded the ship was used by North Korea for espionage activities.

During a summit with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Pyongyang on Sept. 17, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted Pyongyang’s military has dispatched spy ships to waters near the Japanese archipelago.