The government said Friday it will attempt before the typhoon season to salvage a suspected North Korean spy ship that sank in China’s exclusive economic zone in December after a shootout with Japan Coast Guard vessels.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, following the day’s Cabinet meeting, instructed her to negotiate with China so Japan can salvage the ship before the typhoon season starts.

“We will talk with the Chinese, gain their understanding and salvage (the ship),” Kawaguchi told reporters.

Officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Japan Coast Guard were dispatched to Beijing on Friday to brief China on the results of an undersea probe conducted by Japanese divers in May. The probe determined it is technically feasible to salvage the vessel, which had initially been spotted in Japanese waters and pursued by the coast guard.

The government hopes to start the salvaging operation as early as this month, because the typhoon season starts in the East China Sea in July.

China, which has said it is concerned that salvage operations could harm the marine environment of its EEZ, showed understanding toward Japan’s desire to salvage the ship when Li Peng, chairman of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, held talks with Koizumi during his visit to Japan in April.

But negotiations have been idle in recent weeks as diplomatic tension rose after Chinese police dragged five North Korean asylum seekers out of the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang.

With the departure of the five North Koreans to South Korea, however, the government apparently judged the time is ripe to resume talks with China on the mystery ship, separate from the talks over the Shenyang incident.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a morning news conference that Japan and China will discuss salvaging the ship “in a calm manner.”

Later in the day, Fukuda said the salvage operation “needs to be carried out in June, considering weather and other conditions.”

For the coast guard, time is running out. Some officials have been concerned that recent strains in Japan’s ties with China could further push back the operation.

Divers going 90 meters down to the sea floor where the ship lies require air mixed with helium.

It takes about three weeks to produce and stabilize such mixed gas. If the operation is to start before the typhoon season in July, a final decision must be made and preparations must start by early June at the latest, according to the officials.

“The condition of the sea (where the ship sank) is worsening every day (because of the approaching typhoon season). We want to start activities as soon as possible,” a coast guard officer said.

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