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Japan Protests Russian Shooting in Disputed Seas

In the first such incident in half a century, a Japanese fisherman in disputed waters has been shot dead by Russia's border patrol. Japan's Foreign Ministry has lodged a diplomatic protest and is demanding apologies and compensation.

Japan's Coast Guard has reported that Russia's border patrol shot dead a Japanese fisherman on Wednesday morning. He was one of four men aboard a crab fishing vessel. The other three have been taken into custody by the Russians.

The incident took place in waters near islands that Moscow and Tokyo have both claimed since the end of World War II.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tomohiko Taniguchi, calls the behavior of the Russians "intolerable."

"It is the position of the Japanese government that the Russian side will never repeat such an act," he said. "And, also, we request that the Russian government releases the rest of the crew members and the vessel itself as soon as possible."

The Japanese Foreign Ministry summoned Russian's highest-ranking diplomat in Tokyo for a strong formal protest.

The Japan Coast Guard says the Number 31 Kisshin Maru was fishing near Kaigara Island, off the eastern tip of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.

It is not yet clear why the Russians fired on the vessel, although the Russians say they first issued a demand to the boat to halt. Japanese officials have acknowledged the possibility that the fishing boat might not have stopped immediately.

The last fatal encounter in these seas was in 1956. Then, as now, Russian border guards killed a Japanese fisherman.

Russia attacked Japan in the closing days of World War Two, 61 years ago this month. Soviet forces took control of the northern Japanese islands and have held them ever since. The territorial dispute has prevented Moscow and Japan from signing a peace treaty formally ending World War II.