The Japan Coast Guard on Tuesday concluded a six-day undersea probe of a suspected North Korean spy ship in the East China Sea, coast guard officials said.
Two bodies and four weapons were recovered from the site, at a depth of 90 meters in China’s exclusive economic zone.
The coast guard initially planned to end the survey Monday, but extended the search following delays due to poor visibility and strong currents.
On Monday, the dive team recovered the second body during the search of the seabed about 390 km west-northwest of Amami-Oshima Island, in Kagoshima Prefecture.
The corpse was badly decomposed and some bones were visible, as was the case with the first body recovered Friday, the officials said.
The second body was 170 cm tall and dressed in a khaki jumper and black trousers. Both bodies were male.
The dive team, including two chartered salvage ships from a private company, engaged in the survey to determine if and how the ship could be raised.
The ship sank following a chase and shootout in December with coast guard vessels.
A report on whether a salvage is possible is expected from the company about a week after the team returns to the mainland, according to coast guard sources.
Other information on what was recovered will not be disclosed until a news briefing, expected to be held in Kagoshima later this week.
Coast guard officials have been extremely careful to avoid controversy with the Chinese government, according to coast guard sources.
Sino-Japanese relations soured recently following Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit last month to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to the spirits of 2.5 million war dead but also honors Class A war criminals who were tried after World War II.
However, Chikage Ogi, minister of land, infrastructure and transport, who also heads the coast guard, on Tuesday stressed that talks with the Chinese government over intentions to salvage the ship have been smooth so far.
Shot ship displayed
The Japan Coast Guard on Tuesday unveiled parts of a patrol vessel damaged in a shootout with a suspected North Korean spy ship.
Broken windows and dozens of bullet holes marked the wheelhouse of the 230-ton Amami, parts of which were on display on the first floor of the coast guard’s headquarters in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district.
About 130 bullets, apparently from automatic rifles, were fired into the Amami in the December shootout, officials said. Two crew members were injured.
“We’d like coast guard officials in the headquarters and officials in the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry to learn about the severe reality of what happened,” said a senior coast guard official.
A six-day survey of the mystery ship, which sank after the shootout with three coast guard vessels, was completed Tuesday.
It was the first time in 48 years that the coast guard, which is under strict weapons-use rules, fired against an intruding vessel.
The coast guard suspects the ship is a North Korean spy ship because it strongly resembles vessels believed to have been used by North Korean spies in the past.
The coast guard is examining the wreckage, which lies at a depth of 90 meters, to determine whether it can be raised.
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