Japan on alert after finding eight bodies in boat believed to be from North Korea

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 7:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 7:39pm

Japan is stepping up patrols and urging local authorities and fishermen to be on the alert after several boats thought to be from North Korea, some carrying bodies, were found on its northern coast.

“The coastguard and police have to cooperate to step up sea patrols around Japan,” Chief Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday when asked about reports that a boat carrying eight bodies was found on the coast of Akita prefecture, which faces North Korea across the Sea of Japan.

“The government intends to improve this to ensure we can guard against suspicious boats or people arriving in Japan,” Suga said.

He said local authorities, fishermen and residents should report seeing any questionable boats or people.

Last week, police rescued eight people thought to be North Korean fishermen who ended up stranded along with their squid catch.

It is unclear whether the people on board the several dozen North Korean boats that drift near Japanese shores each year are intending to defect or simply unable to make their way back on board their unseaworthy wooden boats.

The boat found on Monday did not appear to have a flag or any other markings and was classified as being “nationality unclear”.

But the crude vessel with its very low gunwale is similar to other poorly equipped boats often seen operating from North Korea.

The Kyodo News service and other Japanese media reported that eight bodies were found under the boat’s deck and taken ashore by stretcher.