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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, February 19, 2018

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North Korean fishermen mysteriously wash ashore in Japan

They ended up drifting into Japanese waters

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TOKYO, Japan - Japanese police said that they had arrested eight men from a boat that washed ashore the coast in Japan.

The police said that the men were found in Akita Prefecture at Yurihonjo city's marina late on Thursday and were immediately taken into custody after claiming that they were North Korean fishermen.

The men reportedly told authorities that their 20-meter long wooden boat experienced difficulties and they ended up drifting into Japanese waters.

Such incidents have been experienced in the past and Japan regularly sees North Korean fishing boats straying into its territory.

According to local reports, Japan’s coastguard has had to occasionally rescue fishermen.

Sometimes the simple and often rickety vessels are reportedly found with bodies onboard, indicating that the vessels had been drifting for some time.

Further, defections by boat to Japan too are not common given the distance.

In 2011, nine North Koreans tried to sail to South Korea, but ended up across the sea in Japan.

The local broadcaster NHK quoted Japanese authorities as saying on Friday that the men arrested were able to walk unaided.

They added that a Korean interpreter has been brought in to help with obtaining details of their story.

Addressing reporters, Hachiro Okonogo, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission said that the men told the police that they had drifted over to Yurihonjo, in the north east of Japan, "after their ship experienced troubles.”

According to the Japanese media, the men were apparently fishing for squid and photos of their boat showed the vessel kitted out with bare light bulb.

These light bulbs are often used by fishermen to attract fish at night.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a statement that Japan will deal "appropriately" with the men. 

He added that the men, whose nationalities couldn’t be confirmed, were healthy.

So far, however, reports have not revealed whether the men intend to stay in Japan or return to North Korea.

Earlier this year, North Korea provoked Japan after it fired two missiles over the country.

 

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