Japan & South Korea Maritime Standoff
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said the coast guardsmen smashed the glass window on the door to the boat's wheelhouse after the crew refused to unlock it and shut off the engine. The order to cut the engine was a "necessary and minimum measure," Hosoda said. "When the crew resisted, they got into a scuffle." South Korean patrol boats were summoned from off the southern city of Ulsan early Wednesday when Japanese patrol boats entered South Korean waters in pursuit of the fishing boat they said had been operating 8 km inside Japanese territorial waters. The 77-ton eel boat Singpung-ho had refused JCG orders to stop and sailed off with two Japan Coast Guardsmen still on board. Japanese authorities contacted the South Korean Coast Guard, which helped stop the boat. After a nearly two-day standoff, the captain of the South Korean vessel agreed to write a letter admitting he had refused a JCG inspection and to pay a 500,000 yen deposit. The JCG boats then withdrew. The incident tested already strained ties between the two countries whose rival claims to a cluster of South Korea-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan have recently heated up. Seoul has also voiced concern over Tokyo's approval of Japanese history textbooks that gloss over the brutal military occupation of much of East Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Hosoda said, however, that the standoff would not prevent a summit later this month between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun from being held.