Somali pirates who seized a Japanese tanker six weeks ago have threatened to kill the 22 crew members unless a US$1 million ransom is paid, the AP reported.
The Golden Nori is carrying crew from the Philippines, South Korea and Myanmar.
According to maritime officials cited in the report, the hijackers have threatened the crew with death if the ransom demands are not met.
Negotiations have been under way to free the chemical tanker, currently anchored in Somali waters and carrying up to 40,000 tons of highly explosive benzene. The U.S. Navy in late October came to the aid of the vessel, with the guided missile destroyer USS Porter
at one point opening fire to destroy pirate skiffs tied to it.
The U.S. military has recently intervened several times to help ships hijacked by Somali pirates.