The government will soon lodge a formal protest with Pyongyang over the intrusion of what Tokyo has determined were “two North Korean spy boats” in Japanese waters, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Tuesday.

“Based on information that the government has obtained so far, we have determined that the two vessels were North Korean spy boats,” the government’s chief spokesman told a press conference. “We truly feel regret, and we will lodge a protest against North Korea.”

Nonaka said, however, that Japan’s stance on trying to solve various bilateral issues with North Korea through dialogue and negotiation will remain unchanged.

The government plans to file a protest with Pyongyang through indirect diplomatic channels in Beijing and New York, urging full information disclosure and the handover of the vessels and their crew. Japan has no diplomatic ties with North Korea. “For a country to lodge a protest against another is a grave matter … We expect that North Korea will sincerely respond to our protest,” Nonaka said.

The two boats, first spotted east of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture last week, refused to stop despite repeated warning shots from Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers.

After being chased by the destroyers, the two vessels reportedly entered a port in the northern part of North Korea. “We have been imposing sanctions against North Korea since it launched a missile in August, and we don’t plan to impose additional measures at the moment,” Nonaka said.

Nonaka said that he hopes a planned suprapartisan parliamentary group, headed by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, will be sent to North Korea. “I personally think it is necessary for former Prime Minister Murayama to visit North Korea and discuss what our country’s relationship with North Korea should be,” he said.

Coronavirus banner