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China asks North Korea to release fishing boat, crew

BEIJING — China is urging North Korea to release a Chinese fishing boat seized, its owner said, by gun-toting North Koreans earlier this month and held for ransom, in the latest irritant in relations between the neighboring allies.

Boat owner Yu Xuejun, who wasn’t aboard, first publicized the seizure on his microblog late Saturday, and on Monday posted that his terrified captain had communicated to him a new ransom deadline.

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‘‘My captain gave me the phone. His voice was trembling. Could feel he was very afraid. Told me no later than 5 p.m. today,’’ Yu wrote on a verified Tencent Weibo account. The post was accompanied by photos of the captain and 15 sailors.

There was no immediate word on the fate of the crew as the deadline passed.

Yu wrote over the weekend that North Koreans seized his boat May 5 in what he maintained were Chinese waters and that they demanded a $100,000 ransom.

The apparent seizure of the Liaoning-based boat adds to China’s frustration with North Korea over its recent tests of nuclear and rocket technologies in defiance of international efforts to curb the country’s nuclear ambitions.

The Chinese government is under intense pressure to ensure the safety of citizens who venture abroad or out to sea to seek their livelihoods. Another abduction by North Koreans of Chinese fishermen about a year ago — along with allegations they were beaten — sparked furious criticism among Chinese online.

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