Unauthenticated video of Japan-China boat skirmish leaked to YouTube
Stars and Stripes November 5, 2010
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – Japanese officials would not comment Friday on the authenticity of leaked videos showing a Chinese fishing boat ramming a Japanese coast guard vessel near the disputed Senkaku Islands, an incident that has stoked nationalist protests in both countries since September.
The release of the footage on YouTube early Friday morning comes as top Chinese officials are arriving in Yokohama for the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which begins Sunday.
The video purports to show the Chinese boat traveling alongside the Japanese vessel as sirens blare and Coast Guarsdmen shout “Stop!” in English, along with various warnings in Japanese. The fishing boat then changes course and rams the coast guard vessel’s stern.
Sumio Mabuchi, Japan’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, avoided questions on the video’s authenticity in briefings with reporters and on the ministry website Friday. Mabuchi said he received word of the video from the Japan coast guard at 2 a.m. Friday.
“How the film was uploaded – our utmost mission now is to conduct a fact-finding investigation,” Mabuchi said, adding that he would probe whether the video was leaked from within the coast guard.
On Monday, about 30 Japanese parliament members watched footage of the incident, according to The Associated Press. The footage was not shown to the general parliament or publicly released.
Several copies of the leaked video have since been posted on YouTube, some of which differ in length. A shorter copy showing the crash is available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJpA3qXWaPM.
“If it is a genuine [video], it is indeed stunning,” deputy chief Manabu Higashidani was quoted as saying by Daisuke Hirasawa, spokesman for the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, Okinawa. “We cannot tell you how many original videos there are, or who keeps them, because they are part of evidence.”
Beijing reacted swiftly following the Sept. 7 incident, demanding that the “illegally detained” fishing boat captain be returned, while Japan deliberated criminal charges against him. China also suspended shipments of “rare earth” materials and detained four Japanese citizens, whom the Chinese government said had illegally filmed military installations.
After two weeks, Japan relented and released the captain, but China continued to demand an apology.
International relations experts said Friday that, if anything, the video leaks could hurt Japan’s standing.
“More than anything else, the biggest issue is that Japan’s capability of security control is now being questioned,” said Kenji Someno, research fellow at Tokyo Foundation. “What message would this give to countries with a close relationship, such as the United States?”
Others said the leak probably won’t change any government’s position.
“Even if it was a genuine [video], China would probably say it was a fabricated one,” said Haruo Tohmatsu, professor of international relations at the National Defense Academy.
On Tuesday, Beijing rejected Washington’s offer to host trilateral talks with China and Japan over Senkaku, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands.
The United States owned Senkaku from 1945 until 1972 before ceding it to Japan along with Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands. China had ceded the islands in 1895 to Japan, along with Taiwan, following the Sino-Japanese War.
The Senkaku islands are uninhabited, but the seabed nearby is believed to have unexplored oil and gas deposits, according to U.N. reports.