Northern isle where N. Korean sailors sought refuge ransacked

Jiji PressMATSUMAE, Hokkaido (Jiji Press) — Home electronics and other goods may have been stolen on an uninhabited northern Japan island where a wooden boat apparently from North Korea stayed to take shelter, it was learned Monday.

Among the missing items were solar panels of a lighthouse and home electronics and a motorcycle at a building of the Matsumae fisheries cooperative, both of which stand on the island in the town of Matsumae in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, according to Japan Coast Guard and Hokkaido police sources.

The building’s entrance door lock was found broken, the inside ransacked and many items missing from there, the sources also said.

Authorities are interviewing men on the boat who have identified themselves as North Koreans, the sources said, adding that Japanese home electronics were found on the ship.

The ship, which had 10 men on board, was spotted at the island on Tuesday, taking shelter due to bad weather. The coast guard is investigating the wooden ship after towing it to Hakodate Bay also in Hokkaido.

On Monday, about 10 police and coast guard officials in white protective suits inspected the building and the lighthouse. The suits were used as precautions against infectious diseases.

Some of the solar panels removed from the lighthouse were found near a shelter port on the island. Probes started inside a facility near the lighthouse because its lock was also broken, coast guard sources said.

So far, the 10 men have said their ship left North Korea in September and began to drift about one month ago when the rudder broke.

Shusaku Yoshida, 67, manager of the cooperative’s building, said most of the items kept inside the building have gone missing. He expressed concern that more North Korean ships may head for waters near the island with rich fishing grounds. “We’ll ask the central government to install security cameras and take other measures,” said Yuji Sato, 58, a senior fisheries affairs official at the Matsumae municipal government.Speech

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