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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"The Japanese coastguard says the fishing boat was hit by bullets"
 real 28k

Friday, 21 April, 2000, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Russian navy fires on Japanese boat
Naval chase
Daitoku Maru No 7 (left) tries to escape a Russian patrol boat
A Russian patrol boat has fired on a Japanese fishing vessel north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

The Russians appeared to have seized the boat with 20 crew aboard, the Japanese coastguard said.

Mori
Japan's PM Yoshiro Mori will meet Mr Putin for the first time this month
The Russian news agency, Interfax, said the fishing boat was encountered in Russian territorial waters and was shot at after it ignored orders to stop.

The incident took place in waters near the disputed islands that Japan calls the Northern Territories and Russia the Southern Kuriles.

No one is reported to have been injured in the incident, the first of its kind in three years.

Meeting

The clash could cast a shadow over this month's first meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin.


Daitoku Maru No 7
The Daitoku Maru No 7 takes evasive action
An official at the Foreign Ministry's Russian desk said the incident was "regrettable" but downplayed its diplomatic impact, saying it was unlikely to affect relations between the two countries.

The Japanese coastguard has dispatched four vessels to the scene to investigate the incident, but has been unable to contact the ship, called Daitoku Maru No 7.

A Japanese coastguard official said the incident appeared to have taken place in international waters.

The Russian coastguards, however, said they detected the ship in Russia's waters early on Friday and began a chase.

They say they fired on the vessel an hour later when it headed out of the Russian maritime zone.

Dispute

Japanese and Russian fishing boats have occasionally clashed near the disputed islands.

The islands were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War Two and a dispute over their sovereignty has prevented Japan and Russia from signing a treaty to officially end the war.

In July 1999, three Japanese fishing boats were seized near the islands and their crew held for several months.

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01 Dec 97 | From Our Own Correspondent
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