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Aomori: Special unit to monitor fishing boats drifting from North Korea

AOMORI (TR) – A special unit will be implemented to monitor fishing boats from North Korea drifting ashore here, the Japan Coast Guard has revealed, reports NHK (Oct. 24).

According to the coast guard, nearly 50 suspected North Korean fishing boats drifted ashore along the coasts of the prefecture last year.

Most of the wooden vessels were found on the Sea of Japan side of the prefecture. However, there is no Japan Coast Guard office in that area at present.

The closest office is located in Aomori City. During winter, accumulated snow and icy roads makes traveling to the Sea of Japan side of the prefecture a lengthy 3-hour drive.

Starting on November 4, the Mobile Surveillance Unit will work to remedy that. Staffed by 10 persons, the unit will be in operation along the Sea of Japan coast throughout the winter, which the majority of the boats drift ashore. The unit will be tasked with locating drifting boats and working with local police.

“We want to respond more quickly than ever in working to eliminate local residents’ anxiety,” said a representative of the Aomori Coast Guard Office.

The Japan Coast Guard says that 49 suspected North Korean fishing boats drifted ashore in Aomori Prefecture last year (NHK)

Water currents and winds

The vessels are believed to be fishing boats launched from North Korea whose engines have become disabled. By far the majority — 90 percent — arrive in the period of November through February, water currents and winds send the drifting crafts to the northern coasts of Japan.

The issue is an escalating problem. In 2018, a total of 225 suspected North Korean vessels had washed ashore through Tuesday. The year before, the figure was 104.

Last year, Hokkaido Prefecture found 77 boats along its shores. Aomori was second at 49.