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Members of the Aomori Coast Guard Office's Mobile Surveillance Unit record the number of a wooden boat that washed ashore in Tsugaru, Aomori Prefecture. (Photo by Kai Fujii)

Japan Coast Guard launches unit to handle North Korean 'ghost ships'

Derelict fishing boats wash up on northern shores when weather turns rough

KAI FUJII and KEI HIGUCHI, Nikkei staff writers | Japan

TOKYO -- In winter, when the Sea of Japan is constantly battered by freezing winds and fierce waves, wooden fishing boats from North Korea frequently wash ashore in northern Japan. Authorities suspect these vessels -- typically rickety and deserted -- are involved in illegal fishing operations in Japanese waters.

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