Japan to inspect drifting boat carrying 10 North Koreans

Japanese authorities are preparing to inspect a decrepit boat with 10 men identifying themselves as North Koreans drifting in rough seas off the northern island of Hokkaido.

Coast guard officials said Thursday they are towing the wooden boat to a safer area for inspection. Officials spotted the boat off the western coast of Matsumae town Tuesday but rough seas prevented them from approaching it.

The Coast guard says the men communicated in Korean via loud speakers and a message board saying they were from North Korea and taking refuge at a nearby island due to rough weather.

Japan is stepping up patrols after a recent spike in the number of boats turning up on its coasts.