A North Korean organization on Monday issued a rare expression of thanks towards the Japanese government, in a positive statement thanking Tokyo for its assistance in helping DPRK sailors in trouble at sea.
In comments carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Central Committee of the DPRK Red Cross Society was reported to have delivered the message to the Japanese authorities “through a relevant channel.”
The organization was reported to have thanked Tokyo “for having offered humanitarian assistance several times so that the DPRK crewmen who had been distressed in recent years returned home in safety.”
North Korean fishing ships are frequently reported illegally entering Japanese seas in pursuit of bigger catches, with many running into distress due to choppy seas and unsafe wooden boats.
These circumstances have led to what media have dubbed North Korean “ghost ships”: DPRK-flagged vessels washing up on Japanese shores, with local residents sometimes discovering the corpses of deceased sailors on board.
January saw four North Korean fisherman reported to have washed ashore on the island of Okinoshima following an engine breakdown.
Just days later, local outlet Fuji News Network reported that two North Koreans had been rescued by the Japan Coast Guard off the coast of the town of Fukaura, having been adrift at sea for a month. The men were said to have expressed a desire to return home.
The Japanese Coast Guard late last year reported that a record number of DPRK-flagged ships were washing up on Japanese shores, with 89 reported to have appeared as of late November.
“There is little doubt why such things are happening with increasing frequency,” NK News director Andrei Lankov wrote late last year. “In recent years, North Korean fishermen have to go further and further away from their native shores in search of fish and squid.”
Monday’s statement is a rare expression of North Korean goodwill towards Japan, which has in recent months sought to soften its stance towards Pyongyang.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in an address to the country’s Diet last month expressed his willingness to meet with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un in the coming year to “resolve North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues” and the long-standing dispute between the two countries over the historic abduction of Japanese citizens by Pyongyang.
But despite South Korean claims in April last year that North Korea was open to dialogue with Japan “at any time,” DPRK state media has in recent weeks continued to condemn Tokyo as a “hostile force.”
“Japan has so far rushed headlong for the execution of its hostile policy toward the DPRK, while crying out for cooperation in inciting confrontation with the DPRK and in putting pressure on the DPRK,” the article said, accusing Tokyo of carrying out a “Don-Quixotic wild act going against the present trend of the times.”
Edited by Colin Zwirko
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Featured Image: by nknews_hq on 2018-09-07 17:20:46