Japan’s Coast Guard found three boats containing 10 dead sailors who are presumed to be North Korean in Japanese coastal waters, according to Kyodo News on Sunday.
The three wooden boats appear to have drifted to Japan’s Ishikawa and Wajima coastlines, in the country’s northwest and were found by Japanese authorities over the weekend.
The vessels had Korean lettering on the side, indicating they belonged to the Korean People’s Army (KPA) or the State Security Department. Fishing nets were also found in one of the boats.
“I don’t think it’s an infiltration boat as it wouldn’t be wise to mark it, it may be a fishing boat as military organizations in North Korea operate fisheries and fishing fleets,” NK News director of intelligence John Grisafi said.
The Coast Guard first found two vessels on the November 20, with four bodies. The remaining six were found the following day.
A further article from the Yomiuri Shimbun said one of the boats at least was engine powered and 2.5-meter-long by 2.8-meter-wide. The Japanese authorities are still examining the case.
Japan has relatively strict rules on North Korean vessels using their ports and water ways, after the DPRK carried out several abductions of Japanese citizens in previous decades.
Despite the regulations, larger North Korean ships are sometimes seen passing though Japanese water ways, and even occasionally calling in at ports.
In most cases the Japanese government would likely allow these passages if they were for humanitarian reasons, the ships were damaged at sea or if they were sheltering from bad weather.
In March this year, an NK News investigation found a sanctioned North Korean ship sailed into the Japanese port of Saikaminato. The DPRK vessel remained in the port for several days and was not inspected or detained, despite Japanese and UN rules on the issue.