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Monday, 9th January 2012
In General Japan News,

North Korean men who drifted to Japan in wooden boat return home

Three men from North Korea who drifted to Japan in a small wooden boast were returned home today (January 9th) following a meeting between officials from Pyongyang and Tokyo.

The trio were discovered on Friday (January 6th) by the Japanese coastguard close to the island of Oki having claimed to have drifted after engine problems disrupted their fishing trip in mid-December.

A fourth man's body was found in the 23-foot boat. It is believed that he died of hypothermia.

According to local media, Japanese and North Korean authorities agreed on the return of the men following an unofficial meeting held in Beijing, the AFP reported.

Diplomatic relations between the two nations are notoriously frosty, but the foreign ministry in Japan said that the arrangements were made on a humanitarian level.

In a statement announcing the repatriation, the ministry said: "The three people have expressed their wish to return to North Korea," the news agency quoted.

It was initially suspected that the men had defected following the recent death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il but this now appears to be unfounded.

Written by Susan Ballion

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Japan 'could help' dismantle N Korean nukes (21st October 2008)
Japanese minister apologises for Korean rule (11th February 2010)