The crew were from China and Myanmar, but the precise identities of the dead, rescued and missing remained unclear.
Two crew members have been confirmed dead and nine others remain missing after their Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship sank in rough waters between Japan and South Korea, Japanese authorities said.
Coast guards from the two countries, joined by military aircraft and a private vessel, located 13 of the 22 people who were onboard the Jin Tian, a Japan coast guard official said.
But Japanese medical authorities later confirmed two of those retrieved were dead, the official told AFP.
The crew were from China and Myanmar, but the precise identities of the dead, rescued and missing remained unclear, he said.
The ship issued a call for help around 11:15 pm local time on Tuesday, the coast guard said.
Its location, around 110 kilometres west of the remote and uninhabited Danjo islands in far southwestern Japan, has made reaching the site difficult.
The accident came as a cold snap hit much of Japan, with heavy snow falling in some areas and daytime temperatures in some of the islands nearest the rescue site reaching just three degrees centigrade.
The coastguard identified the vessel as a 6,651-tonne cargo vessel named Jintan and registered in Hong Kong.
The crew on board included 14 Chinese nationals and eight people from Myanmar, the coastguard said.
In 2020, a cargo ship with 43 crew and 6,000 cattle on board sank off southwestern Japan after being caught in a typhoon.
Two crew survived.