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Japan Aims to Raise Suspected N. Korean Ship - 2002-06-18

China says Japan may raise a suspected North Korean ship sunk in Chinese territorial waters. Japanese forces fired on the boat in the East China Sea last year after it ignored repeated requests to stop.

Beijing is pressing Tokyo to compensate Chinese fishermen for potential damage caused by a Japanese salvage operation. But China and Japan have agreed on all other aspects of a plan to raise the suspicious ship lying at the bottom of the sea in China's exclusive economic zone.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao says that Japan recognizes China's sovereignty over its waters, according to a United Nations law of the sea. Mr. Liu says China will monitor Japan's salvage mission closely, and Japan agrees not to pollute the area. He adds that Japan promises to withdraw its ships from Chinese waters immediately after the operation. In Tokyo, the Japanese Foreign Ministry says final negotiations on the agreement will take place soon.

Last December, the Japanese coast guard detected an unidentified ship near one of its islands. Tokyo says the ship refused repeated requests to stop, so Japanese patrol boats fired warning shots and pursued it into Chinese waters. The ship sank in the East China Sea near Shanghai after a shoot-out with Japanese patrol boats.

Japan says the boat was North Korean and may have been spying or drug smuggling.

The Japanese coast guard reportedly retrieved two bodies from the sunken ship, and found Korean writing on the life jacket of one of the victims. North Korea denies any involvement in the conflict.

Spokesman Liu says Beijing and Tokyo will talk further about compensation for potential damage to Chinese fishermen. He says Japan will study China's request and respond as soon as possible.