ghost ships
The washed-up boats are believed to be fishing vessels from North Korea Getty

The bodies of eight people have been found in a capsized boat that washed up on the coast of central Japan in what is suspected to be another "ghost ship" from North Korea.

Seven bodies were found in small cabins inside the 16-metre long vessel. An eighth was discovered nearby on the beach in Kanazawa.

Senior police official Hiroshi Abe told AFP: "It is difficult to identify the bodies as they had begun to decompose.

"We spotted a tobacco box which carries some Korean letters, but we can't confirm the boat came from North Korea."

According to Japanese news channel TV Asahi, a lapel badge depicting former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was also found in the wreckage.

The boat is believed to be yet another North Korean vessel to have washed up in Japan following a record 104 cases in 2017. Experts believe the ships are fishing vessels whose captains have been told by government officials to travel further out to sea than normal in order to make bigger catches.

Many of the deaths have been caused by the vessels being poorly equipped, it is believed. The boats are unable to cope with rough winter seas and lack radio emergency equipment.

Many of the so-called "ghost ships" are discovered with the crew members already dead inside. The Japanese Coasts Guard has rescued some crewmen.

The number of North Korean ships washing ashore in Japan has led to fears that they are actually being used to transport North Korean spies into the country.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said in December: "The government is well aware that this is causing great anxiety to local people.

"The police and coast guard are working to clarify the situation. Once we have the facts, we will respond firmly."