• Kyodo

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A salvage ship arrived Tuesday morning at the East China Sea site where a suspected North Korean spy ship sank in December, the Japan Coast Guard said.

Weather-permitting, the 15,850-ton Yoshida Maru No. 60 is expected to raise the sunken ship from the seabed, some 90 meters below, on Wednesday, coast guard officials said.

An unmanned submersible confirmed there are no longer any obstacles around the sunken ship to hamper the salvage operation, they said.

The Yoshida Maru, which is equipped with a crane, left for the area Sunday morning after taking shelter off Kumamoto Prefecture to avoid Typhoon Sinlaku.

Cables have already been attached to the sunken ship. The coast guard said it will take about eight hours to raise the vessel and place it in a tank full of water on the deck of the salvage ship.

According to a government salvage plan released Monday, it will likely take at least 11 days to bring the ship ashore after it is raised from the seabed.

The vessel sank about 390 km off Amami-Oshima Island following a shootout with coast guard patrol boats on Dec. 22.

Tokyo claims the boat was a North Korean vessel engaged in espionage or drug-running activities. Pyongyang has denied these allegations.

An estimated 15 people were aboard the vessel at the time of the standoff, and all are presumed dead. The coast guard has recovered the remains of four people.

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