Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A fishing boat believed to be of North Korean origin and carrying four crewmembers was seen near the Japanese coast, according to multiple press reports.
In yet another sign North Korean fishermen are taking risks in the high seas to earn revenue for the Kim Jong Un regime, the wooden boat with crew appeared to have strayed into areas near Okinoshima, Shimane Prefecture, NHK and Kyodo News reported Tuesday.
Local residents reported the boat, which they saw on the horizon about 9 a.m.
Japanese authorities said four people were on board the ship. The crew had drifted at sea for 10 days due to an engine malfunction, they said.
The waters near Okinoshima in the Sea of Japan have become the site of several North Korean vessel sightings. North Korean boats sometimes drift to areas near Japan after fishing in the Yamatotai area of the Sea of Japan.
According to Japan's coast guard, there have been 207 cases of North Korean vessels drifting into areas near Japan.
The boats and their catches have become a staple source of revenue for the Kim regime, under heavy sanctions.
The North Korean leader has expressed an interest in denuclearization but in his New Year's message suggested sanctions must be lifted before progress is made.
North Korea has been discussing denuclearization with partners this week.
In a Facebook post published Tuesday, the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang said Russian Ambassador Alexander Matsegora met with Choi Sun Hee, the top North Korean diplomat in charge of U.S. affairs, South Korean news service Newsis reported.
The two sides discussed the "Korean Peninsula nuclear issue" at the North Korean foreign ministry in Kim Il Sung Square, the Russian Embassy said.
Choi wished the Russians a merry Christmas during talks, the embassy noted in its online post.