North Korea has “strongly demanded” that Japan pay compensation for a fishing boat that sank when it collided with a Fisheries Agency patrol boat vessel last week, according to state media.
The collision, which occurred last Monday, was deliberate and “a gangster act” by Japan, which should take steps to prevent future incidents, a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement run by the official Korean Central News Agency.
“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.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Japanese government, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday that it was weighing the idea of releasing video footage of the collision.
“We are considering when and how to release it,” the top government spokesman said at a news conference. “The video captured the scene when the collision occurred.”
Some 60 North Korean crew members were rescued from a fishing boat that sank after it collided with the patrol boat that was chasing it out of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry official disputed Japan’s claim that a sharp turn by the North Korean fishing boat had triggered the accident and eventual sinking.
“Japanese authorities and the media are misleading the public opinion as if the incident was mainly caused by our fishing vessel,” the official said, adding that the vessel had been “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,” 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 illegally fishing in the EEZ. Alarmed by a recent rise in poaching by North Korean and Chinese vessels, local fishermen have been urging the authorities to increase patrols.
Japan and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed an eagerness to meet with leader Kim Jong Un “without conditions” to resolve issues including abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.
But nuclear-armed North Korea has also conducted tests of a spate of new shorter-range missiles this year. Media reports citing unidentified sources have said that Japan failed to track the trajectory of some of the weapons, raising concerns over Tokyo’s defense capabilities.
Japan’s inability to detect missiles that could land in the country’s territory at an early stage would make it difficult to intercept them or issue evacuation warnings with adequate speed.
North Korea issued a veiled warning on Thursday that it could eventually end a freeze in long-range missile testing as it criticized a call by U.N. Security Council members for it to give up its nuclear weapons and denounced a recent U.S. missile test.
Five European members of the U.N. Security Council met on Tuesday to urge North Korea to take “concrete steps” toward giving up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.
That call came days after North Korea said it had test-fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, the latest in a series of missile tests since it resumed dialogue with the United States in 2018, and a recent break-off of working-level talks in Sweden.
The talks on Oct. 5 ended with Pyongyang blaming Washington for inflexibility.
North Korea has repeatedly reiterated a year-end deadline that leader Kim Jong Un set in April for the United States to show more flexibility in talks, hinting at unwanted consequences if his demands are not met.