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North Korean Boat With 10 Crewmen Found Drifting off Japan

FILE - A wooden boat is seen off the coast Yurihonjo, Akita Prefecture, Japan, Nov. 24, 2017. A similar vessel was spotted Thursday off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Ten North Koreans have been rescued after their boat was found in the waters off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

A Japanese coast guard vessel spotted the wooden boat earlier this week drifting in rough seas. The crewmen said they had sought shelter at a nearby island due to stormy weather. Coast Guard officials said the North Korean boat was being towed to a safer area.

The boat was the latest of dozens of dilapidated North Korean vessels that wash up on Japanese islands each year. More than 50 North Korean vessels have been discovered this year, compared to 66 last year. Monday, 10 bodies were found inside a dilapidated boat that had washed up on the northern island of Akita.

Eight North Koreans claiming to be fishermen were discovered alive in their shipwrecked boat earlier this week.

The boats are operated by fishermen who are prompted by North Korea to sail far out to sea in small, poorly equipped boats for bigger catches to provide food for the impoverished country.