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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japan Finds 2 Bodies After Marine Standoff

TOKYO -- Coast guard search-and-rescue teams early Sunday found the corpses of two sailors from a suspected North Korean spy boat that capsized during a high-seas standoff with Japanese authorities, officials said.

After trading fire with coast guard vessels late Saturday, the bullet-ridden fishing vessel foundered about 390 kilometers off the Japanese island of Amami Oshima and an estimated 15 crew members were dumped in rough seas. Two Japanese coast guard personnel were slightly wounded in the shooting.

A coast guard search employing 12 ships and 13 aircraft turned up the two floating bodies, but their identity was not immediately established, said coast guard spokeswoman Hisako Nakabayashi.

Authorities were pressing on with the search and autopsies were planned later to determine the crew members' cause of death.

In the six-hour incident Saturday afternoon, the fishing ship fled west toward China after a Japanese coast guard vessel had approached it and ordered it to stop for inspection. The ship ignored coast guard warning shots. The Japanese vessel then hit the boat's stern with a burst of machine gun fire that set it ablaze as it continued its flight. Four Japanese coast guard vessels finally surrounded it about six hours later.

Before the trapped boat could be boarded, its crew sprayed the Japanese ships with submachine-gun fire, hitting two Japanese sailors. The Japanese vessels responded with machine-gun fire, and the boat sank within minutes.