Japan inspects drifting boat carrying 10 North Koreans
JAPANESE authorities on Thursday inspected a decrepit boat with 10 men aboard identifying themselves as North Koreans drifting in rough seas off the northern island of Hokkaido.
Coast guard officials said they boarded the wooden boat and started inspection after towing it to a safer area. Officials spotted the boat off the western coast of Matsumae town Tuesday but rough seas prevented them from approaching it.
The coast guard said the men earlier communicated in Korean via loud speakers and a message board saying they were from North Korea and taking refuge at a nearby island due to rough weather. It was not immediately known whether the boat was involved in illegal fishing inside Japan’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Officials said they were linked to a reported campaign by the North to send fishermen farther out for more catches.
It’s unclear if people aboard those boats that drift near Japanese shores each year intend to defect or are simply unable to make their way back in unseaworthy wooden vessels.
In Akita on Monday, officials found eight bodies inside a ragged wooden boat believed to be from North Korea after it washed up on the beach. Last week, a group of eight men who say they are from North Korea washed ashore and are being investigated. Authorities said they were not asylum seekers and had expressed wish to return home.
a wooden boat is seen off Matsumae town, Hokkaido northern Japan, November 29.