• Kyodo

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A senior official of the Chinese Communist Party indicated Tuesday that Beijing has no objection to Japan’s plans to raise a suspected North Korean spy ship that sank in the East China Sea in December after a shootout with Japanese patrol boats, Japanese sources said.

Takeshi Noda, leader of the New Conservative Party, got the go-ahead signal during a meeting with Zeng Qinghong, head of the Chinese Communist Party Organization Department.

Noda told Zeng of Japan’s plans to raise the wreck, which lies within China’s exclusive economic zone, before the typhoon season, and asked for China’s cooperation.

Zeng gave a favorable response, noting that “things will move forward if we value the friendship (between our two countries).”

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said last week that Japan plans to negotiate the salvage issue with the Chinese government before proceeding with its plan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda has said the Japanese government intends to salvage the ship in June. The typhoon season in and around Japan usually runs from July through September.

Tokyo has determined that salvaging the ship is technically feasible and believes it needs about three weeks of preparation and one month to actually raise the ship.

The ship, which had an estimated 15 people aboard, sank after exchanging fire with Japanese patrol boats Dec. 22. No one was rescued.

Tokyo believes the ship was North Korean and engaged in espionage or running drugs.

North Korea has denied any connection with the vessel and denounced its sinking as an “act of piracy.”

Japan Coast Guard boats began pursuing the vessel while it was in Japanese waters.

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