Do Ghost Ships Full of Dead People Belong to Kim Jong Un?

Close to 200 ships full of dead bodies have been found off the coast of Japan over the past two yearsand experts think North Korea is to blame.

TOKYO Since 2013, more than 175 abandoned ships have been found floating off the coast of Japan, with scores of unidentified bodies.

Most of the ships and the dead are believed to have come from North Korea. But what happened to these ships, what happened on board to the crew, and why have 10 ships and 23 bodies been found within just the last two months?

The bodies are often severely decomposed and documents or photos that would help identify the deceased are sorely lacking. Japanese officials are investigating but there are no clear answers, although there are reasonable theories to explain the phenomenon.

On Wednesday, the Japanese Coast Guard discovered an unidentified body in an abandoned fishing ship off the coast of Niigata Prefecture’s Sado City, in the Sea of Japan. The ship had been found on Nov. 14 but was only successfully taken out of the water and inspected yesterday. According the Coast Guard, they received word from the Sado City Fishermens Association that a strange ship was floating in the harbor last month.

The wooden ship, 45 feet long, was found capsized; its hull blackened and discolored. There was Korean writing (hangul) and what appeared to be numbers on the body of the ship as well.

The rough ocean conditions made entering the ship impossible and the Coast Guard only succeeded in raising the boat on Wednesday afternoon. Upon searching the ship, they found fishing equipment. The dead man inside was wearing a black sweater and slacks and an orange life vest; his head was partially skeletonized. He is believed to have died within the last three to four months.

The Japanese Coast Guard announced that since October, there have been 10 wooden ships found abandoned and floating off the coasts of Japan, ranging from Hokkaido in the North to Fukui Prefecture in the Chubu region. From these 10 ships, 24 bodies have been recovered, all male.

Most of the men are believed to have died within the last four months.

Because of the fragments of Korean writing found on the ships and the life vests, the primitive structure of the vessels, and the particular fishing equipment found aboard, the Japanese authorities and most experts believe the majority of the ships are from North Korea.

The first of the ships was found around Oct. 27. On Nov. 20, three boats were found adrift near the city of Wajima, which is on the west coast of Japan. One of the boats contained 10 bodies, already heavily decomposed, and had written on its hull in hangul, Koreans People Army, the proper name of the North Korea military forces. There were also pieces of what appeared to be a North Korean flag.

Was it a failed spy mission? A boat full of defectors?

Neither answer seems likely.

A few days later on Nov. 22, near the coast of Fukui Prefecture, another wooden fishing vessel was found with seven bodies inside. Four of the bodies were partly skeletons, with some skulls having been detached from the remains, probably due to decomposition rather than a deliberate amputation.

The surge in the appearance of these deadly ghost ships may be due to the plans of the Great Leader gone off-course.

Kim Jong-Un, has been visiting fishery stations in North Korea since this summer and reportedly ordered the military and civilian populace to increase the production of marine products.

Satoru Miyamoto, an associate professor of Seigakuin University, who is an expert on North Korean affairs, told Japanese public broadcaster NHK, In North Korea, all companies exist under the auspices of either the government, the party or the military. These ships all appear to be fishing vessels under military control. The drive by Kim Jong-Un to raise the fishing haul probably resulted in many poorly prepared vessels going out to sea.

NHK reported on Nov. 25 that, since 2013, there have been a total of 175 abandoned ships that have floated into the waters surrounding Japan, which are believed to be from North Korea.

Hidenori Sakanaka, former chief of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau, who now runs a nonprofit group promoting immigration to Japan, told The Daily Beast that North Korean ships running adrift in Japan had been happening for years.

Its possible that some of the ships that came here were people seeking to escape the oppressive North Korean regime, but seems unlikely.

The last time North Korean defectors reached Japan was in 2011.

On Sept. 13, 2011, the Japanese Coast Guard found and rescued a small wooden ship, about 26 feet in length, off the coast of Wajima. The six adults and three children aboard were briefly given refuge in Japan and were then transported to South Korea.

Diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea are particularly strained due to unresolved abduction issues.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the North Korean government abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens, primarily to train North Korean spies.

While some of the abductees were allowed to return to Japan, the Japanese government feels that North Korea is still holding many others hostage and has not clarified the fates of suspected abductees.

Read more:

Deadly Waters Off Yemen Threaten U.S. Ships

Even the best-defended U.S. warships may be pulled farther away from an emerging missile kill-zone after Houthi rebels fired two missiles at American ships.”>

The waters off Yemen are becoming a killing field for ships, and while the U.S. Navy is reasonably prepared to confront the escalating danger, Americas allies in the civil-war-torn Middle Eastern country might not be.

On the evening of Oct. 9, forces aligned with Ansar Allahaka the Houthis, Yemens Iran-backed Shia political movementfired two cruise missiles toward the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason and the amphibious ship Ponce while the two vessels were sailing in international waters north of the Mandeb Strait.

Ponce functions as a sort of floating base for mine-hunting helicopters and other U.S. forces. Masons job is to protect more-vulnerable vessels such as Ponce. U.S and allied ships patrol the waters around Yemen in order to prevent illicit arms from flowing into the troubled country.

The 510-foot-long Mason fired three surface-to-air missilesincluding two high-tech, long-range SM-2 missilesand launched a radar decoy in attempt to first destroy, then distract, the incoming Houthi munitions.

The radar decoy, known as a Nulka, is a rocket that hovers in midair while broadcasting a powerful signal mimicking the radar signature of a warship. The idea is that the enemy weapon will go after the decoy instead of homing in on the real target.

The first Houthi missile fell into the sea, either on its own or after being struck or redirected by the American weapons or decoy. It is unclear whether [SM-2s or decoys] led to the missile striking the water or whether it would have struck the water anyway, an unnamed military official told the news website of the U.S. Naval Institute.

The second Houthi missile harmlessly struck the water without American missiles or decoys directly intervening.

The Americans380 aboard Mason and an additional 210 on the 570-foot Poncewere lucky. But they were also prepared to defend against missile attack. Mason packs a sophisticated radar and scores of surface-to-air missiles plus short-range defensive guns. Ponce is the first Navy vessel to carry a defensive laser cannon that can quickly blast enemy missiles out of the air from miles away.

This is what they do, Eric Wertheim, a naval analyst and author of Combat Fleets of the World, told The Daily Beast, referring to the American ships. Their job is to go into harms way. Moreover, both vessels are made largely of steel, meaning they can withstand even direct hits by missiles.

Our ships are very capable of defending themselves, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter assured reporters in the wake of the failed attack.

The same does not apply to more weakly armed and lightly built ships. On Oct. 8, rockets apparently fired by Houthi forces slammed into the catamaran transport ship Swift in the same area where Mason and Ponce would come under attack a day later.

Swift burned and suffered heavy damage. Houthi media claimed the ship was completely destroyed. Its unclear whether any of the ships crew or passengers were hurt or killed, although the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen admitted staging a rescue operation following the missile attack.

The unarmed catamaran, which hauled U.S. troops under a Navy contract between 2008 and 2013, is now owned by an Emirati dredging company. The Saudi coalition claimed the vessel was hauling humanitarian aid to Yemen when it came under attack.

Its worth noting that ships belonging to the United Arab Emirates and other members of the Saudi coalition have maintained a steady flow of weaponry and supplies to allied forces in Yemen. Houthi media described Swift as a warship.

But as far as warships go, Swift is pretty flimsy. Made of aluminum in order to reduce weight and increase top speed, Swift cant absorb much battle damage. I can say from experience that the aluminum hull design is NOT meant for taking damage, one former Swift sailor wrote on Reddit in 2011.

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!
By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to have read the TermsofUse and PrivacyPolicy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason

A fire would literally melt the ship in half, the sailor claimed.

The problem for the U.S. Navy is that more and more of its ships are aluminum like Swift is, including the dozen catamaran transports the sailing branch is buying and the 40 planned Littoral Combat Ships.

The transports arent meant to sail in harms way. Though well-suited for low-threat environments, craft of this type are unsuited for high-intensity combat, Wertheim said. Those are issues we need to be concerned about as we look at the type of ships were bringing in.

The Littoral Combat Ships are meant for combat, although there are reasons to doubt theyd last very long in a shooting war. The LCSs are lightly armed compared to guided-missile destroyers such as Mason.

To be sure, the attack on Swift and the failed assault on Mason and Ponce a day later seem to have rattled the American fleet. The Navys response was forceful and, ahem, swift.

Anybody who takes action, fires against U.S. Navy ships operating in international waters, does so at their own peril, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman, told Military Times on Oct. 11. Were going to find out who did this and we will take action accordingly.

Who did it isnt much of a mystery. There are only so many military units in the Houthi order of battle with the ability to strike a ship at sea. As the Yemeni civil war deepened in 2015, as much as two-thirds of the countrys military sided with the Houthi rebels.

The defecting forces included the armys missile command and the air forces own missile units. Between them, the two contingents deploy Chinese-made anti-ship missiles, Scud ballistic rockets, and SA-2 surface-to-air missiles that, in a pinch, can also strike targets on land and at sea.

Its unclear which of these weapons the Houthis apparently launched at Swift, Mason, and Ponce. The munitions identity matters. There are a couple of issues that go into the kind of danger a missile would present, Wertheim said, including warhead size and the speed of the missile. Warhead size and missile speed vary widely, depending on the type of weapon.

In any event, Houthi missile crews appear to be honing their tactics. The rebel group claimed its missileers destroyed two Saudi vessels before the apparent successful strike on Swift. And the attack on the American ships, while unsuccessful, has compelled the Pentagon to switch up its tactics.

The military is adjusting our force posture in that area in reaction to the entirety of things that are going on in Yemen and the waters surrounding Yemen, Carter said. That could involve pulling even the best-defended U.S. warships farther away from Yemen, out of the emerging missile kill-zone.

Read more: