• Kyodo

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South Korean boats were likely to begin fishing for saury as early as Tuesday evening in waters around Russian-held islands that are claimed by Japan, a South Korean official said Tuesday.

The move comes after Seoul and Tokyo failed to resolve the fishing dispute after two days of talks in Tokyo that ended Monday.

However, the fishing may be postponed to some time after today due to a lack of Russian supervisors who are to board the South Korean boats as monitors, the official said.

The South Korean Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry official, who declined to be named, added that 26 South Korean boats were ready to begin fishing around Shikotan Island.

The dispute involves an agreement reached in December between Russia and Seoul that allows South Korean boats to catch 15,000 tons of saury between July 15 and Nov. 15 in designated waters, including those around the disputed islands.

The islands — Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan, and the Habomai group of islets — were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II and the row over their ownership has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a bilateral peace treaty.

Japan maintains that Russia should not enter into a fishing agreement with a third country involving waters around the disputed islands and has urged South Korea not to fish there. Russia and South Korea have said the pact is purely commercial and has no relation to ongoing Japan-Russia territorial negotiations over the islands.

In a retaliatory move, Japan decided in June to bar South Korean saury boats from waters off the Sanriku region in northeastern Japan unless they withdraw plans to fish around the disputed islands.

Tokyo and Seoul had earlier agreed that 26 South Korean fishing boats could catch 9,000 tons of saury in the area between Aug. 20 and late November.

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