Police in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's main islands, said Saturday they had arrested three of the crew members of a North Korean fishing boat on suspicion of plundering a remote fishing hut.

On Friday the crew cut ropes tethering their boat to a Japanese coast guard vessel near Hakodate port and tried to flee, but the vessel was recaptured later that day.

The boat with 10 crew members had been impounded on Nov. 30, two days after being spotted washed ashore on an uninhabited island off the town of Matsumae. The Hokkaido police have been questioning the crew.

The three were arrested on suspicion of stealing a power generator, which was found on their boat, police sources said.

The Immigration Bureau has taken custody of six other crew members while one has been hospitalized after complaining of ill health.

The police believe the ship's crew also caused damage to and stole other property, such as electronic appliances, from the fishing hut on the island. Another power generator and a boiler were found destroyed.

A crew member said in questioning before the arrest that they took home appliances from the island.

Total damage is estimated at 8 million yen ($70,500), according to the fishery cooperative in Matsumae which owns the hut.

The fishermen have told Japan Coast Guard officials that they left the port of Chongjin in northeastern North Korea in September to go squid fishing in the Sea of Japan before their steering wheel failed about a month ago.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Saturday that the police, the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces will work together in dealing with the recently increasing number of North Korean boats arriving along the coast of Japan.

Japan has no diplomatic relations with North Korea.

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