Dozens of North Korean fishing boats bathe on the coast of Japan every year, but last month the Japanese coastguard recorded 28 cases, the monthly number since records began in 2014
A severe shortage of food and foreign currency because international sanctions are contributing to a new wave of North Korean "ghost" fishing boats they wash themselves in Japanese waters, analysts said.
Aggravating the phenomenon is the fact that North Korea has sold fishing rights to China in an attempt to increase the hard currency, forcing fishermen, often navigating ramshackle vessels, to skip Japan in search of a catch .
Dozens of North Korean fishing boats bathe on the coast of Japan each year, but last month the Japanese coastguard recorded 28 cases, the highest monthly number since records began in 2014.
There has been a record number of North Korean fishermen rescued alive – 42 this year compared to zero in 2016 – but there are still cases of "ghost boats" replete with corpses, with 18 bodies recovered so far this year.
Japanese authorities say it is often difficult to determine exactly how they died, since boats often float for months before being washed in Japan.
"Fishermen are desperate to meet their annual catch targets, which rise to higher levels every year", Toshimitsu Shigemura, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ordered an increase in fishing when he took office in 2013 , analysts noted.
"Since then, the fishermen have been frantically trying to meet the (annual) catch targets, but what is different this year is that they travel to distant waters on their fragile vessels," said Pyon Jinil, an observer and writer leader of North Korea based in Japan.
North Korean "ghost boats" on the coast of Japan
"North Korea last year sold part of its fishing rights in the Yellow Sea to China to obtain foreign currency, so its fishermen have been expelled From the western part of its waters, "he said.
"So this year, Kim Jong-Un ordered his people in a New Year address to set up a fishing base in the Sea of Japan," said Pyon.
Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the North Korean Studies University in Seoul, agreed, adding: "Because they can not fish in their own waters, they have to go further."
"The North Korean fishing boats are quite old and do not have much fuel … so natu the rally ends up drifting and floating in Japan, "said Yang.
There is also the backdrop of a severe food shortage, partly linked to international sanctions, analysts said.
Food rationing has intensified with "each North Korean person who now receives only 300 grams of food per day," Pyon said.
"In order to cover the shortage of staple foods like rice and corn, they want to buy them in China, but they have no money to buy them." North Korea's foreign exchange reserves have been reduced to one third of what that he had last year due to new rounds of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council, two this year and nine in total, he said. he pointed.
– Spies, with boats in poor condition? –
The Japanese media have provided a general coverage of the ships landing from the north, with some speculation that they may be spy boats.
Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii has said he is "pushing efforts to investigate coastal areas of Japan" after an increase Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Tuesday that the government was "investigating cautiously whether they were fishermen or no, "in the midst of press reports that indicated that one of the boats was carrying a sign that said" (North) The People's Army of Korea "
But Shigemura downplayed the possibility that they were Pyongyang spies.
North Korean fishermen, who often sail on ramshackle boats, have once again forced into Japan in search of a catch
"Japan is very easy to sneak in and spies can enter the country in any moment if they wish, "he said.
"North Korean agents do not enter such crushed ships, they come in boats with the right equipment to navigate," he said.
One of the last groups of North Korean fishermen seen in Japanese waters is suspected of stealing a variety of items, including refrigerators, televisions and a doorknob. – before dropping them into the sea before the Japanese coastguards investigated them.
"They wanted to sell them home," Shigemura said.
"But if they go home after a thorough investigation by the Japanese police" – They would be executed since the authorities fear they have been turned into Japanese spies, "said the professor.
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