• Kyodo

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Seoul concluded an accord Tuesday with Moscow that will enable South Korean boats fishing for saury to operate in waters around Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that are claimed by Japan beginning mid-July, it was revealed Wednesday.

Under the deal, agreed during bilateral talks in Moscow, South Korea will pay a fishing fee of $57 per ton of saury, the South Korean Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said in a news release.

South Korea and Russia agreed in December that 26 South Korean boats would be allowed to catch 15,000 tons of saury in these waters this year, beginning July 15.

The two sides failed, however, to reach agreement on the fishing fee.

“With the agreement with Russia (on the fishing fee), South Korean fishing operations from July 15 to Nov. 15 in waters around the southern Kuril islands (disputed territories) have been allowed,” the news release said.

South Korean fishing operations around the islands, over which Japan claims sovereignty, have triggered a diplomatic dispute with Tokyo.

Japan claims the waters are within its exclusive 200-nautical-mile economic zone, and that it must approve any fishing accord involving these waters.

The islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan, along with the Habomai islets were seized from Japan by Soviet troops at the end of World War II.

Last week, Japan imposed a ban on South Korean fishing operations off the Pacific coast areas of Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures in retaliation to South Korean plans to fish around the disputed isles.

Under a fishing accord hammered out by Tokyo and Seoul, 26 South Korean fishing boats were allowed to catch 9,000 tons of saury in the above areas from Aug. 20 to late November.

To protest the ban by Tokyo, Seoul notified Japan on Tuesday of its decision to boycott a preparatory meeting of the International Whaling Commission set for Thursday and Friday in Tokyo.

During the meeting, various IWC members will discuss plans for the commission’s annual congress, scheduled to be held in London from July 23 to 27.

On Tuesday, fisheries minister Tsutomu Takebe rejected Seoul’s demand that Tokyo provide alternative fishing venues if it maintains its ban on South Korean fishing operations in the Pacific off Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi.

Han Seung Soo, South Korean minister of foreign affairs and trade, had summoned Terusuke Terada, Japanese ambassador to South Korea, to the ministry Monday to lodge a formal protest, saying the operation of South Korean fishing boats around the disputed islands off Hokkaido “is consistent with international law and standards.”

Han said South Korean fishing operations around the islands under the accord signed with Moscow last year should not be linked to Japan’s claims on the isles.

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