Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
The Russian fishing vessel Altay was fired upon, detained, boarded and then released by elements of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] Coastal Security Bureau, in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) on 21 September (Saturday). At around 23:30 KST on 20 September (01:30 VLAT on 21 September) KPA Coastal Security Bureau Forces opened fire, without any warning, on the Altay, en route from Zaraubino, Primorsky Krai, to Donghae Harbor (Tonghae), Gangwo’n, ROK (South Korea) carrying a cargo of live crabs. At around 23:40 KST on 20 September (01:40 VLAT on 21 September), according to the fishing company “people in military uniforms from the North Korean ship boarded the Altai, inspected it for about 10 minutes, questioned the captain and then left.” On 21 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry demanded the DPRK provide an official explanation of the incident and a spokesman for the fishing company that owns the Altay remarked that “North Korean coast guards grossly violated the international law on maritime traffic.” Mikhail Voytenko wrote of the incident on Maritime Bulletin:
No explanations by North Korea given. Knowing North Korean Coast Guard, one may assume, that the commander of the ship decided to prove his service zeal and commitment, reporting the incident to the authorities with all due comments and explanations. Or maybe, North Korean Coast Guards simply wanted to get some food and cigarettes – one who knows their ways, just can’t imagine them leaving a foreign vessel without some booty taken.
This was the second reported seizure of foreign vessel by DPRK security forces in 2013. On 5 May, KPA elements seized a Chinese fishing trawler in the Yellow (West) Sea and held the boat and its 16 crew members for ransom. The boat and crew were released, without any ransom being paid, on 21 May. In May 2012, three Chinese fishing vessels and 29 crew members were held in the DPRK after also being captured in the Yellow Sea.