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Japan to Salvage Suspected North Korean Spy Ship

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi wants to raise a suspected North Korean spy ship from the East China Sea by September. The vessel sank last December after a gun battle with Japanese patrol boats.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi refrained from specifying an exact date for the lifting of the ship. She said at a news conference "the prime minister Friday instructed her to talk to Beijing about retrieving the unidentified vessel before the typhoon season," Ms. Kawaguchi said.

The typhoon season in the area runs from July through September. During that period, the sea in the region is often quite rough and strong storms are common. Japanese media reports say Tokyo hopes to begin the work in June.

It could take as long as seven weeks to prepare and execute the plan.

The Japanese government thinks it has the technical ability to salvage the ship and has done underwater surveys on the feasibility of the project.

The ship sank southeast of Shanghai in China's exclusive economic zone last December 22 after trading fire with the Japanese Coast Guard.

China has raised environmental concerns, saying it fears that raising the ship could damage the seabed or that oil could leak from the ship.

Japan suspects the boat was a North Korean spy vessel or drug smuggling ship and wants to raise it to determine its origin. North Korea denies having any connection to the ship and has accused Tokyo of mounting a smear campaign for no reason.