North Koreans Thrown Overboard as Fishing Ship Hits Japanese Patrol Boat – The New York Times

Satoshi Kuwahara, the chief of Japan’s fisheries agency, told reporters that its patrol boats routinely set off water cannons or flash electric bulletin board messages to ships that illegally enter Japan’s waters. The collision on Monday occurred while the Japanese patrol boat was sending out such warnings.

Analysts said North Korea tended not to abide by international laws when conducting activities like fishing. “North Korea hasn’t joined the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and in many cases, they don’t follow rules that are kept among other countries,” said Satoru Miyamoto, a professor of political science and economics at Seigakuin University.

North Korean fishing boats often wander into waters near Russia, China and South Korea, said Robert E. Kelly, a professor of international relations at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea.

“My sense is it’s probably just a typical North Korean ‘the rules don’t apply to us’ sort of approach,” said Mr. Kelly, who noted that North Korea breaks international norms by counterfeiting money, engaging in drugs and arms trading, and abusing workers.

“I think North Korea puts a lot of stake in its reputation and they want to be understood as reckless because they believe that encourages the countries around them to treat them gingerly and cautiously,” Mr. Kelly added.

Many of North Korea’s fishing vessels are operated by its military, and squid is a lucrative catch. Although United Nations sanctions prohibit North Korea from selling seafood, some analysts said that buyers in China might be quietly purchasing fish hauls.

“They can earn a lot with squid,” said Jiro Ishimaru, an independent journalist who covers North Korea and heads the Osaka office of Asia Press. He said that since North Korea’s fishing crews had most likely depleted stocks near their own coast, they would be venturing farther out for catches.

Fish is one of the few sources of protein for most North Koreans, Mr. Miyamoto said. For years, North Korean fishing boats have often run aground on Japan’s coastline, either empty or carrying the dead bodies of their crew.

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