Thursday, January 29, 2009
Russia has captured a Japanese fishing vessel with 10 crew members on board and Tokyo is pressing for their release, officials here said yesterday. The No 38 Yoshi Maru was seized by Russian authorities late Tuesday in waters between the two countries and has been taken to the Russian port of Nakhodka, Japanese government officials said. Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, quoting Russian officials, said the crew members were safe and well. “We have asked for an early release of the crew and the ship from a humanitarian viewpoint,” government spokesman Kawamura told a news conference. The 122-tonne ship was seized as it was catching crabs in waters about 480km north of Japan’s western Tottori prefecture, Japanese officials said. Russia and Japan have frequently clashed over fishing rights. But Tuesday’s incident took place in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), not near disputed islands where previous incidents have occurred.
Yoshi Maru No 38 Japan and Russia have not yet signed a peace treaty to end World War II because of the dispute over the islands, which the Soviet Union seized days after Japan surrendered in 1945. Yesterday, the territorial row was re-ignited as Japan separately announced that it had cancelled humanitarian aid to the four disputed Russian-held islands, north of Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido. Japan has provided medical services and humanitarian aid supplies to Russians on the islands - known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan - as part of an effort to solve the territorial row. But “immediately before unloading a ship, Russia demanded the disembarkation card be submitted in addition to the usual procedures, which was not acceptable from Japan’s position”, the ministry said in a statement. Japan and Russia in 1991 agreed to allow Russian residents on the islands and Japanese nationals to pass freely without visas.