AKITA (TR) – Akita Prefectural Police announced on Friday that a boat with eight men believed to be from North Korea washed ashore in Yurihonjo City on Thursday, reports TV Asahi.
At around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, police were tipped off about the boat on the shore by a local resident. Officers arriving at the scene thereafter found the eight men inside the wooden vessel at the nearby Honjo Marina.
According to police, none of the eight persons had suffered serious injuries. The men, who appear to speak Korean, are now in protective custody.
“We left North Korea to go fishing before experiencing engine trouble,” one of the men was quoted. “We were then drifting.” Squid were also found on the boat.
As of now, the government has not confirmed whether men were fishing Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which would be a violation of international law.
When asked at a press conference if there is a possibility that the men are spies, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “We are investigating the circumstances of the matter carefully.”
In 2015, dozens of bodies were found inside similar fishing boats from North Korea that had washed ashore on the coasts of a number of prefectures in northern Japan.