National

Chinese trawler fled EEZ with Japanese inspectors on board in November: Suga

AP

The government said Thursday it had protested to Beijing that a Chinese trawler suspected of poaching off the nation’s southern coast sailed away with Japanese inspectors on board in November.

China disputed the boat had crossed the border to fish, and said it was dissatisfied that Japanese fisheries authorities went on board.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the boarding occurred Nov. 5 in Japan’s exclusive economic zone off Kagoshima, and that Japan had complained about the “vicious” case via diplomatic channels.

The incident surfaced more than 50 days after it occurred, when Suga responded to a reporter’s question related to a news report. Suga did not explain why nothing was released earlier and the Foreign Ministry declined to give further details.

Fisheries officials said about 10 Japanese officials boarded the trawler to conduct an inspection within Japan’s EEZ but that the trawler continued sailing into waters where both Japan and China can fish legitimately.

The inspectors returned to their own ship after its half-day chase of the trawler, with the help of the Japan coast guard. They had to let the Chinese trawler go since by then it had left the EEZ, Japanese officials said.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference Japan’s accusation that the Chinese boat had crossed the border to fish was “not true,” and that China expressed strong dissatisfaction with the boarding check conducted by Japanese fishery authorities. She expressed hope that Japan would respect Chinese fishermen’s right to fish, demanding that Japan “not interrupt (their) normal operation.”

The number of suspected Chinese poachers has been rising in recent years, prompting Japanese fisheries officials to step up patrols. Four Chinese boats were captured for illegal fishing off Japan’s coast last year, according to the agency statistics.