Published: Fri, November 24, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Men found at northern Japan marina say they are from North Korea

Men found at northern Japan marina say they are from North Korea

Akita prefectural police said on Friday they found the men late on Thursday after receiving a call about suspicious men standing around at the seaside in Yurihonjo town.

A wooden boat carrying eight men claiming to be fishermen from North Korea has washed ashore in Japan's Akita Prefecture, police said according to Kyodo.

Hachiro Okonogi, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, told reporters that the eight men said they had been fishing when the boat's propeller stopped and they drifted ashore.

The men, who said they were North Koreans, appear to be fishermen whose wooden boat, found nearby, had trouble and went adrift, Ito said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, asked if the possibility the men were spies had been ruled out, told a news conference authorities were handling the matter carefully.

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Japanese media reported that the men were apparently fishing for squid.

The boat had a plate bearing "Chongjin", the name of a city in northeastern North Korea, in Hangul letters.

Local residents expressed anxiety over the incident, while some said they were surprised the crew members reached Japan alive despite rough sea conditions. "I heard an unidentified ship has arrived and I feel anxious", said an 84-year-old man who came to see the site.

A week earlier, the Japanese Coast Guard rescued three North Korean men from a capsized fishing boat of the northern coast of Japan.

But sometimes the boats - often simple or rickety vessels - are found with bodies onboard, indicating that the vessels had been drifting for some time.

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