Rescues of North Korean fishermen off the coast of Russia’s Far East appear to have increased this year, a Maritime Rescue Coordination Center official in Vladivostok said Monday.
Six North Koreans were rescued on October 4 from two separate submerged fishing vessels off the coast of Nakhodka following a storm days earlier, the official, Nikolay Pirozhkov, told Russia’s state-run TASS new agency.
Pirozhkov said his region “didn’t have such a problem of saving the North Koreans” in previous years, adding that “they also come to our shores in large numbers and suffer wrecks here.”
The first rescue last week occurred around 160 km southeast of Nakhodka and the second two hours later, TASS reported, with both discovered by the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged DS Marmadura.
Given the 200-nautical mile (370 km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) Russia enjoys off its coast under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it appears at least one of the rescues was made within their EEZ – though the official did not provide details of any evidence of illegal fishing in these instances of submerged vessels.
The rescues come after multiple storm-related incidents involving North Korean fishing vessels in previous months, which saw rescues, deaths, and high numbers of ships seeking shelter along Russia’s coast.
In one instance in early September, hundreds of small fishing boats were captured on camera leaving the Bay of Olga in Primorsky Krai (Primorye) en masse after taking shelter from a storm in the Russian bay, as is their right under international law.
The locations and frequency of the recent presence of DPRK fishing vessels, however, has led to multiple high-profile complaints by Russian government officials in recent weeks explicitly voicing concerns over illegal activity by North Koreans.
Last week, while attending the 13th International Fishery Congress in Vladivostok, acting Primorye Governor Oleg Kozhemyako said the recent spate of storms “allowed us to identify the scale of illegal foreign fishing in the exclusive economic zone of Russia, to estimate the number of vessels illegally fishing under the flag of the DPRK.”
In a partial transcript of his remarks at the October 4 event provided by local news site VL.ru, Kozhemyako also said North Koreans were, according to information he received from local fishermen, stealing not only commodities such as fish but also fishing gear.
He called the thefts a “systematic” problem that is difficult to control due to the inability of radar to track such small fishing vessels.
In another high-profile case, last week Russian ambassador to the DPRK Alexander Matsegora responded personally to a journalist’s story detailing illegal fishing, theft, and littering by North Koreans off the coast of Primorye.
On October 2, journalist from local government-funded outlet OTV Vladimir Oshchenko published the details of a message he received from Matsegora, in which the Russian ambassador said he had conveyed the concerns to Director of the First European Department of the DPRK foreign ministry Im Chon Il in Pyongyang.
The message contained an “urgent demand to take immediate measures to normalize the situation with illegal fishing in Russian waters” and included government figures detailing “an extremely negative trend of the increasing number of violations by Korean fishermen.”
“Im Chon Il took my information very seriously, promised to report urgently to his management, to address the fishing organizations. We will follow the situation,” Matsegora reportedly told the journalist.
But as locals and even government officials in the region continue to voice their concerns, cross-border cooperation between the DPRK and Primorye continues to see developments.
The two sides agreed at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok last month to plans for the North to open a trade office there sometime soon, though further details have yet to be released.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: CPC_6776 by nknews_hq on 2016-10-03 08:52:28