In Brief

Skeletons found on ‘ghost ships’ that wash up in Japan

Authorities unable to confirm origin of series of vessels coming ashore

At least four so-called “ghost ships” have washed up on Japan's west coast this month, some with decomposing bodies still on board.

While authorities haven't confirmed their origin, “signs suggest they're from North Korea,” says CNN.

The latest incident occurred when a small wooden ship containing eight bodies which had been partly reduced to skeletons washed up on a beach in the Sea of Japan.

The ship was found by the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) in the northern Akita Prefecture, days after two similarly partially decomposed bodies were found on the island of Sado.

Reuters reported that the two bodies were found with a pack of North Korean cigarettes and other belongings with Korean lettering.

Authorities are working to establish where the bodies found over the last week came from.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said the most recent boat, measuring about 7m (23ft) long, was found on a beach near Oga city. The vessel was missing a rotor blade and navigational devices.

Officials found the remains of eight people, some reduced to bones, while inspecting the boat.

The BBC's Celia Hatton says the appearance of “ghost ships” is thought to be a consequence of North Korea's attempts to satisfy widespread hunger by demanding huge quotas of seafood from fishermen.

Satoru Miyamoto, a professor at Seigakuin University and an expert on North Korea, told CNN the number of ships washing ashore on Japan's coast has risen since 2013.

“It's after Kim Jong Un decided to expand the fisheries industry as a way of increasing revenue for the military. They are using old boats manned by the military, by people who have no knowledge about fishing," Miyamoto said. "It will continue.”

Several North Korean fishermen rescued earlier this month by Japanese authorities “were also returned to the country, on their request, officials said, indicating that at least some of those washing up on their neighboring nation's shores are not attempting to flee there,” adds the broadcaster.

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