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 this week, North Korean state media reported.
A foreign ministry spokesman said the collision on Monday was deliberate and "a gangster act" by Japan, which should take steps to prevent future incidents, according to 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 spokesman said. "If such an incident occurs again, Japan will face an undesirable consequence."
Japan's foreign ministry dismissed North Korea's statement as "unacceptable," saying the collision occurred when a North Korean fishing boat took a sharp turn while a Japanese patrol boat was warning it to sail away.
"Japan promptly protested again to North Korea through embassy channels in Beijing," Japan's ministry said in a statement.
The Japanese coast guard said on Monday it had 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 spokesman disputed Japan's account that the fishing boat caused the accident by taking a sharp turn, saying it was on a "normal navigation" course.
"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 and Makiko Yamazaki in Tokyo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Edmund Blair)