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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japanese Fishing Boat Seized

Russian border police have seized a Japanese fishing boat and its six crew members while it was in disputed waters between the two countries, prompting Tokyo to protest, Japanese officials said Monday.

The No. 38 Zuisho Maru was captured Sunday morning off Kunashiri Island, one of four disputed islands in a group the Japanese call the Northern Territories and the Russians call the Kurils, Japanese coast guard spokeswoman Sanae Kobayashi said early Monday.

The boat, which was stopped by the Russian border police for inspection, had not returned to its home port of Rausu on the eastern coast of Japan's main northern island, Hokkaido. The current location of the crew and their condition is unknown, she said.

The coast guard was later notified by the Russian boarder authorities, announcing the seizure of the boat and its crew members, said another coast guard spokesman, Hidemi Ogahara.

Japan's Foreign Ministry lodged a protest, demanding that Russia provide an explanation and resolve the case promptly.

"Based on Japan's position on the Northern Territories issue, we cannot accept [the seizure] and request that the case [be] resolved promptly," the ministry said in a statement issued late Sunday.

Public broadcaster NHK said the Russians seized the boat because it attempted to flee following an initial order to stop for an inspection of its catch.

The boat was taken to the disputed island's main port city of Yuzhno-Kurilsk, Itar-Tass reported, citing regional coast guard officials.

Zuisho Maru, carrying 1.5 tons of fish, was one of two vessels spotted by the Russian coast guard Sunday in the waters near the island, the report said. The other boat escaped capture.

There have been frequent seizures of Japanese boats in recent months as Russian authorities have stepped up patrols in and around the disputed territory.

In August, Russian patrol boats fatally shot a Japanese fisherman and seized a vessel in the disputed northern waters, escalating tensions between the two nations. The vessel and remaining crew members have since been returned.