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A North Korean cargo ship sinks off southwest of the Goto Islands in Kyushu Prefecture, Japan, in this picture taken on January 12, 2017 provided by Japan Coast Guard. Japan Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS

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TOKYO (Reuters) - A North Korean cargo vessel carrying rice sank off the west coast of Japan's westernmost major island of Kyushu on Thursday after springing a leak, but all 26 crew members were rescued without sustaining injuries, Japan's coastguard said.

It has not been decided how to send the crew, all of them North Koreans, to their home country, a coastguard official said, adding that they were in good condition.

Japan's ties with North Korea have long been strained due to the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents decades ago and Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programmes.

The Japanese coastguard is treating the incident as a straightforward shipwreck case and there were no signs of abnormalities, the official said.

The cargo ship was carrying 5,720 tonnes of rice from North Korea's west coast city of Nampo to Wonsan on the east coast, the Japanese coastguard said.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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