It is imperative for the government as a whole to bolster its posture of vigilance and take all possible preventive measures against such unexpected incidents as intrusions by armed fishermen.
Wooden fishing boats believed to be registered in North Korea have been drifting ashore one after another on the coast along the Sea of Japan, and the number of fishermen brought into protective custody is sharply increasing. Relevent authorities should investigate what happened and reveal the results.
In late November, a squid fishing boat with eight men aboard was found ashore in the city of Yurihonjo, Akita Prefecture.
A fishing boat with 10 men aboard has been confirmed to have landed on Matsumaekojima, Hokkaido. A plate inscribed with Hangul letters reading “Korean People’s Army” was found on the boat. In North Korea, military personnel are said to also be engaged in fishing.
Signs that household electric appliances and other items were removed from a hut and lighthouse facility administered by a local fishery cooperative on the uninhabited islet of Matsumaekojima cannot be overlooked.
Police are investigating the case with a view to possibly treating it as a suspected theft. Strict measures must be taken based on relevant laws. Reexamination of crime prevention measures in coastal areas should become an urgent task.
Boats have also been found washed ashore in such prefectures as Aomori, Yamagata and Niigata, with more than 70 such boats having been discovered since January. The number has risen sharply since November, when waves in the Sea of Japan grow bigger. The number of bodies discovered has risen to about 20.
The Japan Coast Guard has expanded its aircraft surveillance activities. It is difficult for such operations to cover the entire coastline of Japan, which totals about 30,000 kilometers. Yet considering people’s anxiety, it is desirable to prevent as many boats from reaching shores and crew members from coming ashore as possible.
Prepare for emergency
It is important for all government offices to share information and establish a system for cooperation involving such organizations as the JCG, police, Self-Defense Forces, local governments and fishery cooperatives. Such equipment as intelligence-gathering satellites and drones could be effectively used for monitoring activities.
North Korea has defiantly conducted illegal fishing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Amid the continued economic sanctions imposed by the international community, it is strongly believed that the Kim Jong Un administration has encouraged fishing as a means of dealing with food shortages.
This summer, the JCG expelled about 820 fishing boats from the Yamato Bank, a rich fishing ground for squid and crabs, off the Noto Peninsula. But poaching has yet to cease. A thorough crackdown on such activities is needed.
In one instance, a rifle was aimed from one of the fishing boats at a Fisheries Agency patrol boat. Securing the safety of the Japanese side should not be neglected.
The government is studying countermeasures premised on a massive surge of refugees from North Korea to Japan, should a contingency on the Korean Peninsula arise. This is the right step.
The possibility of agents or terrorists slipping into Japan cannot be ruled out. It is essential to take such measures as strict screening at ports and build in facilities to temporarily accommodate refugees.
It is necessary to work toward concrete countermeasures, including against infectious diseases and biological weapons, based on various scenarios.