National / Politics

Japan Coast Guard reinforces Sea of Japan fleet to ward off North Korean poachers

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

The Japan Coast Guard has beefed up its patrol fleet near the Yamato Bank in the Sea of Japan to counter increasing numbers of North Korean fishing boats in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, it announced Friday.

The Yamato Bank is in the middle of the sea, about 400 km (roughly 250 miles) west of the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture. It is one of Japan’s most productive fishing zones.

The coast guard began deploying more patrol ships to the area in late May to warn the North Korean ships away from the EEZ. This is being done with a long-range acoustic device that sends warning sounds and, at times with water cannons, it said.

The Fisheries Agency has deployed its own ships and displays warning messages via electric signboards.

On Friday morning, the coast guard said it had warned 112 North Korean boats to leave the EEZ since last month and used water cannon against 19 of them.

The measures taken are to assure safety ahead of the fishing season for squid, which usually starts this month.

According to the coast guard, dozens of North Korean fishing boats are detected each day when fishing season peaks.

“Japanese vessels head out for squid fishing in June. Our priority is to ensure safety,” Kenichi Ozaki of the Guard and Rescue Department told reporters in Tokyo on Friday.

“With cooperation with other organizations including the Fisheries Agency, we will continue to act strongly against North Korean fishing boats conducting illegal operations,” he said.

According to the coast guard’s 2017 figures, 1,923 North Korean boats were warned last year, and water cannons were used against 314 of them.