NHK has learned that the Japan Coast Guard is to launch a new surveillance unit next month. The move is in response to the rising number of cases in which wooden boats believed to be from North Korea were found on or near the Japanese coast.
The mobile surveillance unit is reportedly to be stationed on the Sea of Japan coast of Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan.
Coast Guard officials say that last year, the prefecture saw 49 cases of wooden boats thought to be from North Korea drifting to or near the coast. They say most of them were on the Sea of Japan side in the wintertime.
There are no Coast Guard facilities on the Sea of Japan side of the prefecture. In winter, it could take about three hours for Coast Guard officials from Aomori City to drive to the coast due to snowfall and icy roads.
The new unit will reportedly be made up of about 10 Coast Guard officials who will conduct surveillance from the ground during the winter. When wooden boats are found to be washing ashore or drifting near the coast, the officials will deal with the crew on board in cooperation with police.