Fishing boat standoff resolved Korean skipper to confess to evading JCG inspection
Japan and South Korea reached an accord Thursday to end a 33-hour standoff over control of a South Korean fishing boat suspected of poaching in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, the Japan Coast Guard said.
South Korean fisherman Hwang Gap Soon, who was allegedly wounded by Japan Coast Guard officials, sits in a hospital in Ulsan, South Korea, on Thursday. His boat, the Sinpung (top), was the focal point of a standoff between coast guard vessels from Japan and South Korea in the Sea of Japan. AP, JAPAN COAST GUARD PHOTOS
Japan agreed to hand over the boat and its skipper to the South Korean authorities on condition that the captain submits a written confession admitting he refused to allow a JCG inspection and that he promises to pay a fine if he is found guilty, the JCG said.
The Japan Coast Guard questioned the skipper about the incident on a South Korean Coast Guard vessel, and the captain submitted a letter of guarantee to pay a deposit of 500,000 yen to Japanese authorities after admitting he refused the inspection, according to the JCG.
“As we couldn’t arrest the captain, our investigation was insufficient. We would like to handle this case as an exception,” Kosaku Higaki of the Japan Coast Guard told a news conference.
But the South Korean Coast Guard released its probe results Thursday, stating the boat had entered Japan’s EEZ but had not been poaching.
Japan and South Korea had been at odds over which country had the right to investigate the South Korean fishing boat, the Sinpung, which fled from the Japanese EEZ around midnight Tuesday. Japanese patrol vessels left the area at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.
Japan had demanded that the boat’s captain be handed over for arrest on suspicion of operating illegally in Japan’s EEZ off Tsushima Island, Nagasaki Prefecture, and fleeing with two Japan Coast Guardsmen aboard.
The South Korean authorities meanwhile said their Japanese counterparts needed to first show proof of poaching. Japan responded that the actual occurrence of such activity should be the subject of investigation after the man was arrested.
Coast guard vessels from both sides — eight Japanese and five South Korean — had been engaged in a standoff in rough seas some 60 km northeast of Tsushima Island, with the fishing boat sandwiched between them, according to the Japan Coast Guard.
The area in which the vessels were entrenched is open water but part of South Korea’s EEZ.
Japan maintained that it has the right to investigate the fishing boat as it violated Japanese laws, but South Korea says it will be in charge of any probe because the boat was seized in South Korean economic waters.
South Korean media reported Thursday that one crew member on the fishing boat claimed he was “severely beaten” by Japan Coast Guard officers.
But the JCG said that while its officers may have tried to free themselves after their hands were pinned by the boat’s crew in a scuffle, they did not injure the crew.
The Japan Times: June 3, 2005