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7 Spy Ships in Japan, report says

Date Posted: 1999-04-10

North Korea may have had as many as seven spy ships in Japanese waters a day before Maritime Safety Agency (MSA) boats and naval vessels unsuccessfully attempted to stop two of the vessels from fleeing north, a mainland newspaper report claims.

The Tokyo Shimbun said the two ships masquerading as Japanese fishing boats found in territorial waters off northeastern Japan last month, were part of a seven-ship spying mission taking place at the time.

MSA patrol boats and Self-Defense Force naval ships gave chase to two spy vessels March 23, firing warning shots across their bows to force them to stop. The vessels were equipped with sophisticated antennas, were said to reach speeds of up to 35 knots and were found to bear false Japanese markings. The Shimbun said of the seven vessels, five departed territorial waters a day before the two remaining boats were spotted, one of which was reportedly having engine trouble.

Meanwhile, a plan to send a delegation to North Korea to improve deteriorating relations between the two countries is gaining popularity with politicians.

According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun, the delegation would be headed by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama..

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