Japanese police have said they are investigating men discovered on Japan’s northern coast who claim they are North Korean.
Police found eight men in Yurihonjo city on Thursday after receiving a call that suspicious men were spotted on the seaside. Police said a wooden boat was also found at a nearby marina. The men have been taken into custody.
According to police, the men spoke Korean and identified themselves as North Korean fishermen who washed ashore in Japan after their boat broke down.
“We understand that the eight individuals are reporting that they came from North Korea for fishing, but drifted there after their ship experienced [technical] troubles,” Hachiro Okonogi, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, said.
Japanese media reported that the men were apparently fishing for squid.
The investigation will include the possibility of illegal fishing, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
It is not known whether the men intend to stay in Japan or return to North Korea.
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A week earlier, the Japanese Coast Guard rescued three North Korean men from a capsized fishing boat of the northern coast of Japan. They were later transferred to another North Korean vessel.
The waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula are a rich fishing ground and dozens of North Korean fishing vessels wash up in the Sea of Japan every year. In 2015, at least 14 vessels – some seriously damaged – reached Japanese shores or were found in regional waters, including three North Korean boats with 10 bodies found on the Noto Peninsula.