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Sea of Japan fishermen faced with double threat of missiles, suspicious boats

A wooden boat is seen at the Takojima fishing port in Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Nov. 27, 2017, after it was found drifting in the ocean off the coast. (Mainichi)

Japanese fishermen who operate in the Sea of Japan are not only faced with the threat of missile launches from North Korea but also the recent arrival of suspicious boats from the same country -- causing them to feel both angry and concerned.

"How long must we keep worrying about the sky for?" a source connected to the Japanese fishing industry said anxiously. The source's comment is a reference to the recent string of North Korean missile launches -- the latest of which took place on Nov. 29.

With regard to the Nov. 29 missile launch, a number of fishermen who were working off the coast of Ishikawa Prefecture at the time of the launch witnessed a "red flying object" in the sky. According to the Ogi branch of the Ishikawa Prefecture Fisheries Cooperative Associations, a fisherman working on a squid boat in the Sea of Japan witnessed a missile-like object "move from west to east, leaving a red trail," at around 4 a.m.

The Ishikawa Prefectural Government fisheries department has stated that when the missile was launched, there were 15 squid boats operating in the shallow "Yamatotai" area in the central part of the Sea of Japan. In addition, there were seven boats affiliated to the Ishikawa Prefecture Fisheries Cooperative Associations in operation in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Hokkaido.

Furthermore, a squid fishing boat affiliated to the Matsumae Sakura fishery cooperative in southern Hokkaido was also operational in the Sea of Japan when the missile was launched. The boat did not incur any damage on this occasion, but it regularly operates in the area where the missile landed, prompting a source connected to the cooperative to say, "There would be nowhere to run. This is troublesome. The only hope is that the government works out some kind of solution."

On top of the missile launch, a wooden boat suspected to be from North Korea was found near the uninhabited Matsumae Kojima island west of the town of Matsumae, Hokkaido, on the same day.

A 67-year-old fisherman from the town commented: "I never would have predicted that a boat would arrive here."

Meanwhile, the Matsumae Municipal Government sent out a message through its town speakers, saying, "We have confirmed the arrival of numerous suspicious boats. Please make sure to lock the doors firmly whenever you go outside or go to bed."

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