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North Korean fishermen arrested in Japan for stealing

Representational image

Tokyo, Dec 9 (UITV/IANS) - Police in Japan on Saturday arrested a group of North Korean fishermen for allegedly stealing on an uninhabited islet, where the suspects took shelter after their boat went adrift.

The police said that it had held three of the 10 crew members for questioning, while the other seven were in immigration custody with one of them in the hospital, reports Efe news.

The North Korean fishing boat was found adrift near the uninhabited island last weekend, and was towed by the Japanese Coast Guard to a nearby port in order to assist its crew and for interrogation.

The fishermen told the Japanese authorities that they had left the port of Chongjin in northeastern North Korea in September for squid fishing in the Sea of Japan, but their steering wheel failed about a month ago and they went adrift.

Some of the crew members admitted to stealing home appliances from a hut on Matsumae Kojima island, where the group had sheltered from bad weather.

The North Korean fishermen had taken a television, a refrigerator, a motorcycle, a rice cooker and other items belonging to local fishermen's cooperative, besides causing damage to the property, amounting to an estimated value of 8 million yen ($70,500), police sources told Kyodo news agency.

When Japanese coast guard personnel located the wooden fishing boat on December 3 they saw the sailors throwing away some electrical appliances, while on Friday they cut tether lines that joined them to the Japanese vessel and tried to flee, although they were caught shortly after, said the same sources.

In recent weeks, the number of North Korean boats that have washed up on the coast in northwestern Japan has increased, and it is believed the boats had wandered off its territorial waters in search of catches or that they were tossed by strong currents and weather conditions.

In November, 24 North Korean fishing boats ended up in Japanese waters, which practically constitute half of the 55 similar cases registered this year by the Japanese authorities, which have so far rescued a total of 11 North Koreans and recovered 22 bodies.