TOKYO: The Japan Coast Guard said on Monday it had rescued more than 20 crew members from a North Korean fishing vessel which collided with a Japanese patrol boat that was chasing it out of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
“We don’t know how many were on board in the first place, but we were informed that more than 20 were rescued. It appears probably no one else is left in the water,” a Japan Coast Guard official said.
The incident occurred 350 kilometers northwest of Noto peninsula in central Japan, the official said.
“We’ve been strengthening patrols around the water there in cooperation with the fisheries agency,” in recent years following reports that many North Korean fishing boats were poaching fish and squids, Japan coast guard spokesman Kazuma Nohara said.
Experts say some fishermen from the North are traveling far out to sea in order to satisfy government mandates for bigger catches.
And dozens of North Korean fishing vessels wash up on Japan’s coast every year.
But their old and poorly equipped vessels are prone to mechanical faults and other problems, including running out of fuel, and there are few ways for them to call for rescue.
Boats have also washed up on Japanese shores with the crew on board dead — referred to as “ghost ships” by local media.
In 2018, 10 North Koreans rescued from a tiny wooden boat drifting off northern Japan were deported back to their country.