• Kyodo

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Toyama Prefecture on Thursday urged the agent for a North Korean freighter stranded off Toyama port after being denied entry to quickly refuel the ship so it can take shelter from an approaching typhoon, prefectural officials said.

The Tokyo-based agent for the 874-ton Suyangsan responded to Toyama’s request by saying it will discuss the matter with the ship’s owner, the officials said.

There has been no progress in negotiations between the prefecture and the owner over the refueling, including which party will foot the bill. But the prefecture has said that if the agent fails to find an oil provider, “it is possible the prefecture will arrange for it through local agents.”

The vessel, with a crew of 16 and about 1,000 tons of ore on board, has been at anchor in the Sea of Japan about 2 km off the port since June 12. Toyama authorities denied it entry, saying it has no lifeboats and fails to meet international safety standards.

The prefecture said that if Typhoon Soudelor, moving north-northeast from Kyushu, approaches Toyama, ships will have to be brought either alongside the pier or moved far offshore for safety. Toyama port is currently packed with other vessels.

The prefecture said it made the refueling request because even if the Suyangsan takes shelter offshore, it does not have enough fuel to maintain steerage, the officials said.

The Japan Coast Guard said it has dispatched the patrol ship Yahiko to the area to stand by for any unexpected occurrence.

In Yokohama, meanwhile, the Panama-registered freighter Hyoki, scheduled to deliver cargo to North Korea that was originally to be loaded onto the North Korean ferry Mangyongbong-92, entered Yokohama port Thursday morning and was inspected by coast guard officials.

They checked the personal belongings of the 13 Chinese crew members and the ship’s cabins, among other things. The freighter arrived in Yokohama at 8:30 a.m. from Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, the coast guard and Yokohama city officials said.

More than 30 vehicles, including trucks, and supplies of clothing and confectionery were loaded aboard the 2,607-ton ship. The Hyoki is scheduled to leave for North Korea’s Nampo port.

Two loudspeaker vehicles operated by rightists appeared at the Yokohama pier to stage a noisy protest, but no trouble was reported, the officials said.

Japan has been cracking down on North Korean vessels, alleging that some, including the Mangyongbong-92, are used for smuggling items with military potential, as well as unauthorized remittances of cash, to North Korea, and are being used for drug-running and espionage activities.

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