By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s foreign ministry “strongly demanded” on Saturday that Japan pay compensation for a fishing boat that sank when it collided with a Japanese patrol boat earlier this week, North Korean state media reported.
The collision on Monday was deliberate and “a gangster act” by Japan, which should take steps to prevent future incidents, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.
“We strongly demand that the Japanese government compensate for the infliction of the material damage by sinking our vessel,” the unnamed spokesman said. “If such an incident occurs again, Japan will face an undesirable consequence.”
A Japan Foreign Ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Japanese coast guard said on Monday it rescued about 60 North Korean crew members from a fishing boat that sank after it collided with the patrol boat that was chasing it out of Japanese waters.
The North Korean foreign ministry official disputed Japan’s claim that a sharp turn by the North Korean boat caused the accident.
The fishing boat was “on a normal navigation,” the official said in the statement.
“Japan is impatiently trying to justify its deliberate act, and it even acts like a guilty party filing the suit first,” the official said. “Yet, they cannot evade from their responsibility for this incident of sinking our vessel and threatening even the safety of its crew.”
Japanese authorities said the North Korean boat was fishing illegally in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by William Mallard in Tokyo; Editing by Paul Tait & Shri Navaratnam)