July 13 (UPI) — Japan is on alert after the country’s coast guard encountered a boat armed with a rifle in its exclusive economic zone.
The boat is believed to be of North Korean origin, and may be under the jurisdiction of Pyongyang’s military, Japan’s Jiji Press reported.
The vessel chased a Japanese boat out of its immediate range and no injuries were reported, according to Tokyo.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Thursday at a regular press briefing the boat was intercepted west of Yamatotai, a maritime area in the middle of the Sea of Japan, and within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The boat appeared at around 4:55 p.m. on July 7, a few days after North Korea announced the “successful” launch of what it claimed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Suga said a boat for Japan’s fisheries agency was “chased by the unidentified vessel with a rifle” in the economic zone.
Japan has increased the number of coast guard and maritime security patrol boats in its territorial waters following the rising presence of Chinese and North Korean vessels, NHK reported.
Suga said the Japanese boat left the zone and that “no injuries were incurred.”
Relevant government ministries have held meetings regarding the boat encounter. The Japanese embassy in China is using channels of communication to file a protest with North Korea, Suga said.
“The government is responding appropriately through the relevant ministries to secure the safety of Japanese fishing vessels,” he added.