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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japan Protests Coast Guard's Detention of 4 Fishing Boats

TOKYO -- The Japanese Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the Russian coast guard seized four Japanese fishing boats in disputed waters between the two countries, fuming that the detention was unacceptable and demanding an explanation from Moscow.

The boats were captured in the early hours off Kunashiri Island, one of four disputed islands between the countries, a Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing internal policy.

Japan calls the island group the Northern Territories and Russia calls them the Kuril Islands.

No other details were immediately known, the official said. He said the location and activity of the boats at the time of their capture were also unknown.

Public broadcaster NHK said the boats and their 11 crew members, who were unharmed, had been taken to nearby Shikotan Island, also part of the disputed island group. The boats were based in Rausu on the eastern coast of Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido, it said.

Akira Muto, chief of the ministry's Russia section, called the incident "unacceptable," citing Japan's territorial claims over the islands and their waters. Muto also demanded Russian officials provide further details.

Yevgeny Lazarev, spokesman for the Sakhalin regional office of the border guards service, said all four boats were seen violating the territorial limit, Itar-Tass reported. The trawlers were being taken to Yuzhno-Kurilsk on Kunashiri, which in Russian is spelled Kunashir.

A bilateral fisheries accord allows only registered vessels to operate in the disputed waters.

Russian authorities have frequently seized Japanese boats in recent months as they have stepped up patrols in and around the area.

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.