Japan handed over three North Korean fishermen Thursday to a fishing vessel from their home country a day after they were rescued from a capsized boat in the Sea of Japan, the Japan Coast Guard said.
The coast guard said it returned the three crew members at around 10:55 a.m. to the vessel sailing about 350 kilometers northwest off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture after they were rescued by a coast guard vessel Wednesday outside Japan's exclusive economic zone.
Coast guard officials said they are still searching for 12 crew members that are missing from the same boat.
The three were rescued from the upturned hull of a wooden boat about 360 kilometers off the peninsula, as they were on the way back to North Korea with their catch.
They suffered no life-threatening injuries and expressed a desire to go home.
When asked whether the boat had been in Japan's EEZ, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the three crew members had been questioned but did not elaborate.