North Korea has demanded Tokyo pay compensation for a fishing boat that sank earlier this week in an incident which Pyongyang described as a deliberate and “gangster act” in the Sea of Japan.
The North’s foreign ministry “strongly demanded” that Tokyo pay compensation for the vessel that went down in the sea on Monday, after colliding with a Japanese patrol boat that was chasing it out of the waters.
“We strongly demand that the Japanese government compensate for the infliction of the material damage by sinking our vessel,” the unnamed spokesman was quoted by the official Central Korean News Agency (CKNA) as saying on Saturday.
It also called the collision as deliberate and “a gangster act” by Japan.
“If such an incident occurs again, Japan will face an undesirable consequence,” it added.
Satoshi Kuwahara, a Japanese fisheries agency official, said on Monday that the Japanese patrol boat was warning the North Korea vessel to leave the area, which falls under Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
When foreign vessels illegally operate in Japan’s waters, Japanese patrol boats often send an audio message, display a warning sign on an electric bulletin board, or spray water at them, Kuwahara said.
The Japanese coast guard said that a sharp turn by the North Korean boat caused the collision. It also claimed it rescued about 60 North Korean crew members from the fishing boat.
The North, however, dismissed the claim, saying that the boat was “on a normal navigation.”
“Japan is impatiently trying to justify its deliberate act, and it even acts like a guilty party filing the suit first,” said the statement.
“Yet, they cannot evade from their responsibility for this incident of sinking our vessel and threatening even the safety of its crew,” it added.
Japan and North Korea have been at odds for decades, with Tokyo having taken sides with its key ally, the United States, against Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile program.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, said earlier this month that he was determined to meet North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in an effort to resolve tensions.