The Japanese coast guard revealed on Tuesday they have pushed out over 300 North Korean fishing boats attempting to poach squid from within their territorial waters.
Coast guard officials said in a statement that as many as 300 North Korean vessels have been identified and pushed out from within Japanese fishing waters since May. In around 50 cases, Japanese patrol boats deployed water cannons against boats that ignored warnings.
All the reported incidents took place within the 200-square mile Yamatotai fishing region off of Japan’s northern coast, famous for its rich squid population that drives Japan’s fishing industry.
Coast guard officials confirmed that another 225 abandoned North Korean vessels had washed ashore onto Japanese beaches last year, likely a result of accidents or bad weather.
The Japanese coast guard has been forced to increase the number of territorial water patrols in recent years amid a surge in North Korean poaching. Experts believe the surge in poaching is likely an effort by Pyongyang to boost their food harvests to help feed a population that remains chronically malnourished.
A United Nations report released last month warned that North Korea’s economy remained in dire shape as a result of crippling U.S.-led sanctions, leaving citizens to bribe regime officials in order to access basic living essentials. The communist regime strictly regulates the food supply to ensure that those highest in the nation’s songbun caste system do not experience declines in their quality of life, at the expense of everyone else in the country.
“The rights to food, health, shelter, work, freedom of movement and liberty are universal and inalienable, but in North Korea, they depend primarily on the ability of individuals to bribe State officials,” said Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her report.
A recent joint report by the U.N. and the World Food Program found that the communist state had been forced to cut food rations after experiencing its worst harvest in ten years.
“This new food security assessment…has found that following the worst harvest in 10 years, due to dry spells, heat waves and flooding, 10.1 million people suffer from severe food insecurity, meaning they do not have enough food till the next harvest,” said WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel.
Both reports were angrily rejected by Pyongyang, who described them as “politically motivated for sinister purposes”.
“Such reports are nothing more than fabrication … as they are always based on the so-called testimonies of ‘defectors’ who provide fabricated information to earn their living or are compelled to do so under duress or enticement,” North Korean officials said in a statement.