Japan arrest 2 more men suspected of drug links

Police arrested two Japanese men Wednesday for suspected drug-trafficking links with North Korea, raising to seven the number of arrests connected to a North Korean ship allegedly used to smuggle amphetamines four years ago.

The pair, identified by police as Kiyoharu Shishikura, 50, and Tsunehiko Noto, 63, are accused of conspiring with the other suspects arrested earlier.

A Tokyo Metropolitan Police spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity under police protocol, said Shishikura had no fixed address and that Noto is a Tokyo resident, but refused to give further details.

Shishikura is suspected of storing smuggled drugs, while Noto is suspected of selling them to "several gang organizations," the Asashi newspaper said on its Web site, citing police investigators.

Their arrests come after police nabbed two Japanese men on Tuesday and three men last week in connection with the alleged drug ring.

The three men arrested last week, a South Korean man and two Japanese, including the alleged head of a gang, are suspected of having used the North Korean ship, Turubong 1, for drug smuggling in 2002.

The vessel is believed to have carried hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of amphetamines from Chongjin, a North Korean port, on Oct. 9, 2002 to a meeting point in the Sea of Japan, where the cargo is believed to have been dropped off for pickup by a Japanese vessel owned by one of the seven arrested.

The ship, which had sailed into Sakaiminato harbor in Japan's western prefecture of Tottori, left for North Korea after authorities searched it Friday for evidence related to the case, reports the AP.

I.L.