National

Seoul demands stop to seizure of fishing boats

Japan must stop seizing South Korean fishing boats in its redefined territorial waters and immediately release the skippers of the captured vessels, South Korean Ambassador Kim Tae Zhee told Vice Foreign Minister Shunji Yanai on July 14, according to ministry officials.

Kim told Yanai that Tokyo should apologize for alleged beatings of captains and crew members by Japanese patrol officials, the ministry officials said. Territorial waters were previously drawn from a baseline running from the coastline. But at the the start of the year, Tokyo began enforcing its territorial waters drawn from a straight baseline, expanding its territory. Yanai told Kim that Tokyo had the sovereign right to redraw the lines and that it adhered to international rules.

Seoul argued that the unilateral remapping violated the rules. Kim said he hopes for a resolution soon to recent ship incidents so the two nations can resume fishery talks and establish new fishing rules, they said.

Between June and July, Japan seized five Korean fishing boats that were in its newly declared waters and is still detaining two fishermen. Seoul claims the captured vessels were outside Japanese territorial sea boundaries drawn from a normal baseline.

The tension comes as Japan and South Korea remain deadlocked in negotiations over fishing rules. The two nations have yet to conclude a new fisheries treaty since ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea last year, due largely to their dispute over islets in the Sea of Japan known as Takeshima in Japan and Tok-do in South Korea.

The convention recognizes that signatory nations have exclusive jurisdiction over fisheries and mineral resources lying within 200 nautical miles of their shores. But Takeshima, off which South Korea patrols, is within 200 miles of both nations’ shores. Japan has threatened it may abolish the existing accord if the two sides fail to work out a revision by July 20.