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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

MSDF withdraws ships from fishermen search

Staff writer

The Maritime Self-Defense Force on Tuesday recalled its warships from the search for the missing father and son whose fishing boat was run over by a destroyer last month.

News photo
Part of the wheelhouse from the fishing boat that was run over by the destroyer Atago off Chiba Prefecture last month was found Tuesday by the oceanographic vessel Natsushima near the collision site. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JAPAN AGENCY FOR MARINE-EARTH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY/KYODO

The MSDF will continue devoting aircraft to the search.

Also Tuesday, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology discovered part of the wheelhouse of the fishing trawler Seitoku Maru's wheelhouse before ending its deep-sea probe.

The identification number on the discovered wheelhouse reportedly matched that of the fishing boat.

"Because (the wheelhouse) was just found today, there needs to be further consideration on whether another seafloor search is necessary," Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said. "The probe has ended for the time being, but depending (on the situation, we) may consider salvaging" the wheelhouse.

The father and son "were involved in an ill-fated shipwreck and (I) feel sorry for them," Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told reporters in the evening. "It may be turning out to be a very difficult search because it has spread to the open sea, but it must be continued."

MSDF chief Adm. Eiji Yoshikawa explained during a news conference that the family of the father and son have also asked that the search be called off.

The Japan Coast Guard ended its round-the-clock search operations Sunday but is continuing to investigate the accident.

Machimura said the MSDF will start its own investigation into the collision once the coast guard reaches a certain point with the probe, but he does not know when that will be.

The Defense Ministry "needs to firmly establish what kind of preventive measures are necessary after the criminal investigation or looking into the cause of the accident," Machimura said.

The 7,750-ton destroyer Atago collided with the 7-ton, 12-meter Seitoku Maru on Feb. 19, splitting the boat in two. Haruo Kichisei, 58, and his 23-year-old son, Tetsuhiro, have since been missing.

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The Japan Times

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