Photo/IllutrationPolice investigators start removing equipment from a North Korean wooden boat in Hakodate, Hokkaido, on Dec. 9. (Nobuhiro Shirai)

  • Photo/Illustraion

HAKODATE, Hokkaido--Police here arrested three members of a North Korean fishing vessel on suspicion of stealing a generator from a hut on an uninhabited island off southern Hokkaido after they washed ashore in November.

The rickety wooden boat carried 10 crew members in total.

Police said the three men gave their ages as 45, 32 and 59. The 45-year-old man identified himself as the captain. Police did not say if the men had admitted to the allegation.

According to police, the boat arrived at Matsumaekojima island off Matsumae on Nov. 28, but went adrift the next day.

On Nov. 30, the Japan Coast Guard searched the boat and found the generator and other items on board.

It emerged Dec. 4 that a generator valued at 650,000 yen ($5,730) and a number of household appliances had disappeared from the hut on the island.

On Dec. 6, police tried to question the crew members on a voluntary basis but they refused to cooperate. Two days later, they cut the rope of their boat that was attached to the coast guard patrol vessel off Hakodate, also in southern Hokkaido, in an apparent attempt to flee.

According to the crew members’ explanations, their boat left Chongjin Port in North Korea's far north in September to catch squid in the Sea of Japan.

The rudder gave out about a month ago and stormy weather caused the boat to drift to the uninhabited island.