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Senkaku collisions video release 'act of terrorism'

Date Posted: 2010-11-11

Video purportedly of the collisions between a Chinese trawler and two Japanese Coast Guard vessels in September has appeared on the internet and on television stations around the world, and that has raised the ire of a senior executive within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, who’s calling the release an act of terrorism.

It “is terrorism designed to topple the cabinet,” he says, declaring he believes the video “was leaked intentionally.” The six videos totaling 44 minutes of action involving the Japan Coast Guard patrol boats Mizuki and Yonakuni and a Chinese trawler that rammed them while in Japanese waters appeared Thursday night on YouTube, a video sharing site. Included were scenes of the fishing boat ramming the Coast Guard vessels.

Yoshito Sengoku, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, said if a public servant had intentionally leaked the video, it would be a violation of the national public service law. Prime Minister Naoto Kan reacted to the video posting by telling reporters he felt the nation’s information management was “sloppy” and that he felt a sense of crisis. Kan has also apologized for the leaks.

The Japan Coast Guard in Ishigaki originally had the videos, which it said were recorded by crew members aboard the Mizuki and the Yonakuni. The video had been sent to 11th Regional Coast Guard headquarters in Naha, and which submitted to the Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office for an investigation.

The footage, Coast Guard officials say, had been stored on computers for at least 17 days after the September 8th incident. Sources say individual workers could view the videos on their own computers so they didn’t need to retrieve the originals from the safe. Japan Coast Guard rules allow for storage devices such as USB flash drives marked for work use, but stipulate that storage devices onto which investigative data is copied may not be taken out of the office environment.

Sengoku says the Chinese government has not formally issued a statement about the YouTube video, but says Tokyo has received an inquiry on the subject. The Chief Cabinet Secretary says he hopes the video releases, which have since been removed from YouTube, won’t interrupt a meeting between Kan and Chinese President Hu Jintao at this weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Yokohama.

The leaked video has been widespread. Saitama Police have retrieved 280 DVD’s found at a train station that are believed to be recordings of the collisions. The DVD’s were found in two cardboard boxes near an exit of the East Japan Railway’s Kawaguchi Station, with a note reading “This indicates the realities of the Democratic Party of Japan… feel free to take these with you.” Police say they are trying to figure out how the DVD’s were made, saying they suspect someone critical of the DPJ or China may have left them, although it’s not clear whether the DVD’s were made by the same person that uploaded the collision video to YouTube.

A former Chinese ambassador to Japan, Chen Jian, has told Japanese reporters in Beijing the issue should not be allowed to inflame tensions over the Senkaku Islands. “Lets put this issue to an end,” noting “we have more important things to do. Let’s turn the page and move on.” China’s Assistant Foreign Minister, Hu Zhengyue, says China wanted to “resolve conflicts through dialogue.”

Japan’s Foreign Minister, Seiji Maehara, says he thinks the leaked video was taken by coast guard crews, and he thinks they’re legitimate. An edited version of the collisions video had been shown to the Diet last week, but that video was never released to the public.

“If the images are genuine, the only places of origin can be the coast guard or the prosecutors office,” a senior coast guard official says. Google, the parent company of the group operating YouTube, says it will cooperate with police or government officials if an official request is received.

Chinese media are ignoring the entire collision incident, although some news websites in China aired the actual video footage. The Communist Party-affiliated People’s Daily Online issued a brief report, using video taken from Hong Kong media. Chinese authorities are said to have been deleting the images from Chinese websites. Chinese reaction has been mixed, with some saying it looked like the fishing vessel crashed into the Japanese Coast Guard ships. Many, though, are praising the fishing boat captain and crew for “putting their lives on the line to serve the country.”

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