• Kyodo

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Twenty-six South Korean saury fishing boats started fishing Wednesday evening in waters around Russian-held islands claimed by Japan, a South Korean official said.

An official at the South Korean Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry said work in the area started around 6 p.m. and the vessels are looking for a shoal of fish.

The South Korean boats were given the go-ahead from Russia, with only 13 Russian monitors joining the vessels. The remaining 13 monitors are to be dispatched to boats without monitors around the weekend, the official said.

Under a Russian-South Korean fishery accord, each of the 26 South Korean saury fishing boats must carry a Russian monitor to ensure there is no violation of the agreement, which allows South Korea to catch 15,000 tons of saury from July 15 to Nov. 15 in designated northern Pacific waters, including those around the disputed islands.

Yonhap News Agency reported that Russia demanded $195,000 per month in return for allowing South Korean boats to begin fishing.

Tanaka shows ire

Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka told Seoul and Moscow on Wednesday that South Korea’s commencement that day of saury fishing around disputed Russian-held islands claimed by Japan is “extremely regrettable.”

“Japan makes a strong protest” against the launch of fishing despite Japan’s repeated calls for refraining from doing so in the area, Tanka said in a statement.

“The four northern islands are Japan’s own territory and Japan holds sovereign rights in exclusive economic waters around those islands,” Tanaka said. “We cannot accept that Russia gives permission for South Korean fishing boats to fish in the area, nor that South Korean boats fish in the area by getting permission from Russia and not from Japan.”

Tanaka urged the two countries to respond sincerely and to hold consultations with Japan beginning next year.

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