SEOUL – Seoul lodged a formal protest against Japan on Monday for barring its fishing boats from waters off the Sanriku region of northeastern Japan, South Korea’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said.
The South Korean protest was lodged after Han Seung Soo, the South Korean foreign affairs and trade minister, met with Terusuke Terada, Japanese ambassador to South Korea, the ministry said.
“Our (South Korean) fishing operations in waters around the Southern Kuril Islands are consistent with international law and international standards — and is solely a fishing issue not to be linked to territorial disputes between Japan and Russia,” Han was quoted as telling the Japanese envoy.
Han also demanded that the Japanese government retract its earlier decision and allow South Korean fishing boats to fish in waters off the Sanriku region.
Tokyo notified Seoul last week that it would bar South Korean fishing boats from operating in its economic zone off northeastern Honshu in retaliation to South Korea’s having signed a fishing agreement last year with Russia that covers waters claimed by Japan.
Under the agreement with Russia, 26 South Korean fishing boats have been allowed to fish in waters around a group of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that Japan is calling for the return of.
Japan claims that the waters subject to the Seoul-Moscow accord are within its 200-nautical-mile economic zone and that its approval is therefore required.
The disputed islands — Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan islands and the Habomai group of islets — were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II.
Under the fisheries accord between Japan and South Korea, 26 South Korean saury fishing boats are allowed to catch 9,000 tons of saury from Aug. 20 to late November off the Pacific coast areas of Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures — known collectively as the Sanriku region.
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