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North Korean boat captain charged with stealing from tiny Japanese island

Japanese authorities have reportedly indicted the North Korean captain of a boat that drifted to its coast on charges of stealing a generator, appliances and other equipment from an uninhabited island.

The captain and nine crew members on the dilapidated boat were rescued near a tiny island off Hokkaido, northern Japan, in late November.

Japanese police said they arrested the captain and two crew members earlier this month on suspicion of stealing a generator and appliances from a barn on the island.

Prosecutors on Thursday charged the captain with theft, meaning he will stand trial in Japan, according to reports from Japanese media, including NHK public television.

NHK reported that the captain played a leading role and also stole nearly 40 items including a television, appliances, as well as solar panels and equipment for a lighthouse on the island, worth more than 5.6 million yen (£37,000).

Winds and water currents push dozens of boats on to Japan's northern coasts annually.

Rickety North Korean fishing boats are particularly vulnerable because they lack the sturdiness and equipment to return home.

About 100 of the vessels, many of them empty, have been detected this year, most of them since November.

The increased pace of the past few weeks has prompted Japanese authorities to step up patrols.

They have been holding dozens of people from the boats and eight men were recently repatriated via Beijing after they expressed a desire to return home.

AP

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