N Korea ‘spy ship’ a hit with tourists


Video of the ship’s sinking on Youtube: 1, 2

Tourists in Tokyo are flocking to visit the salvaged remains of a suspected North Korean spy ship, sunk after a gun battle with the Japanese coast guard in December 2001.

The unusual tourist attraction in the fashionable O-Daiba area attracted more than 20,000 people in its first weekend on display to the public.

Exhibits included an underwater scooter and a portable missile launcher, as well as the bullet-scarred hull.

The spy ship was put on display by the coastguard in order to raise awareness of the threat from North Korea, whose alleged nuclear programme has severely strained its foreign relations with Japan in recent months.

Some visitors said that the exhibit confirmed their view that Tokyo was too soft on Pyongyang.

“Japan is just too wimpy,” 60-year-old Goro Masuda told Reuters news agency. “We must take a stronger line.”

But others thought that the Japanese coastguard was trying to manipulate the public.

“I think the coast guard had its own reasons for wanting to show us this,” said Akihiko Nishimura.

The ship was disguised as a Chinese fishing boat when it was intercepted by the Japanese coastguard.

It was sank after a six-hour chase and fire fight with Japanese patrol ships.

The vessel, which was said to have failed to heed Japanese warning shots and an order to stop, fled in the direction of China before it sank.

After salvaging the wreckage, coastguards found a small button labelled “self-destruct” on board, which they believed was used by the crew to scupper the boat rather than be captured.

Ten bodies were recovered from the ship, although officials said that the array of equipment on the ship meant that there were probably several more North Koreans on board.


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