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Japan searching for reportedly capsized N. Korea boat in Sea of Japan

This photo taken in May 2019 shows a Japan Coast Guard patrol ship, right, warning a wooden boat believed to be a North Korean fishing vessel, in the Sea of Japan. (Photo courtesy of Japan Coast Guard/Kyodo)

NIIGATA, Japan (Kyodo) -- A fishing boat believed to be North Korean may have capsized in the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, throwing its crew into the waters off Ishikawa Prefecture, the Japan Coast Guard said.

The coast guard and the Fisheries Agency are searching for the boat but have yet to find the vessel or its crew, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference. It is not immediately known how many crew members were aboard the vessel.

The coast guard said it received a call around 10:10 a.m. Wednesday that a wooden fishing boat believed to be North Korean overturned and its crew were thrown into the sea, about 320 kilometers northwest of Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture.

The location is near the Yamatotai area within Japan's exclusive economic zone that has fertile waters for squid and other types of fish.

According to Suga, a fishing boat likely from North Korea told a Fisheries Agency patrol ship by radio that another fishing boat operating in the distance had capsized.

The area has seen a rise in illegal fishing by North Korean and Chinese ships, and Japanese authorities have been stepping up their patrols.

On Oct. 7, a North Korean fishing vessel collided with a Japanese patrol ship operated by the Fisheries Agency near the Yamatotai area, some 350 km northwest of the Noto Peninsula in the prefecture. The fishing vessel sank after the collision but all crew members were rescued by Japan and left the area on a different North Korean ship.

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