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Japanese Destroyers Fire on Unidentified Ships

Date Posted: 1999-03-26

Japanese destroyers fired warning shots at two unidentified vessels March 23 after a 12-hour pursuit by the Maritime Safety Agency patrol boats failed to stop the vessels fleeing north into the Sea of Japan.

The two unidentified vessels, found inside Japanese territorial waters about 190 miles northwest of Tokyo, refused requests by the civilian Maritime Safety Agency to heave to. In a tense climax to the 12-hour chase, the Japanese government decided to send destroyers - the first such action using military ships since the end of World War II - to intercept the vessels.

According to reports, the destroyers fired rounds from small-caliber machine guns into the water, but the vessels, supposedly equipped with sophisticated antennas and lacking any form of identification, continued to speed away in a northerly direction.

An Associated Press report said the antennas indicate the ships "may have been in Japanese waters for spying operations."

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