At least four ships have washed up on Japan’s west coast this month, according to CNN, with some of the vessels carrying dead bodies on board.
CNN on Tuesday reported that Japanese authorities have not confirmed the origin of the so-called “ghost ships,” but signs suggest they emerged from North Korea.
The Akita Coast Guard on Monday said that eight skeletons were found in the hill of one wooden boat that washed ashore on Japan’s Miyazawa Beach.
The unidentified craft was spotted drifting off shore last Friday, but its macabre cargo was only discovered when it reached land, landing in the northwest of Honshu, Japan’s main island.
Japanese officials would not confirm the boat came from North Korea, but it matched a spate of vessels and debris that have ended up on Japan’s west coast this year.
Monday’s discovery came four days after eight North Koreans were rescued after their ship washed up on the shores of Japan’s Akita prefecture.
Four dead bodies were also found on Nov. 17 on board another vehicle that washed up in Ishikawa prefecture.
Three North Koreans were additionally rescued by Japan’s coast guard in the same area on Nov. 145, and three more dead bodies were found in their boat the following day.
CNN reported that all of the bodies and survivors from that first incident – which occurred off Japan’s Noto Peninsula – have since been returned to North Korea.
The spate of North Korean boats washing up in Japan this year recalls a similar phenomenon in 2015.
More than 12 so-called “ghost ships” were discovered in Japan that year bearing dead bodies on board.
Experts said at the time that the corpses could have been fishermen or refugees from North Korea that were driven into more dangerous waters by desperation.
North Korea suffers from recurring, well-documented food shortages, and the reclusive Asian nation has stoked global tensions this year with its pursuit of nuclear weapons.