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Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010

Senkaku video leak probed as a crime

Kan offers apology as prosecutors open investigation

Staff writer

Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized in the Diet Monday as prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into how sealed video footage of the Sept. 7 collisions of a Chinese trawler and two Japan Coast Guard cutters near the Senkaku Islands ended up on the Internet last week.

"A complaint was filed because it's almost certain (the leakage involved) a violation of the National Civil Service Law," Kan said at a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee after apologizing for the government's "lapse in management."

The government also officially confirmed the same day that the leaked footage is identical to the videos edited by the Japan Coast Guard's Ishigaki office.

The probe was launched after the coast guard filed a criminal complaint earlier in the day with the Tokyo Public Prosecutor's Office and the Metropolitan Police Department. The Fukuoka High Public Prosecutor's Office will lead the investigation.

"Internal investigations have limits, which is why the criminal complaint was filed," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, after receiving a report from transport minister Sumio Mabuchi, who oversees the coast guard.

Sengoku said the Fukuoka prosecutors are leading the probe instead of the coast guard to ensure impartiality.

The footage — six video clips with a combined running time of 44 minutes — appeared late Thursday on YouTube.

The footage, taken from the patrol boats, appears to show that the coast guard boats were trying to get the trawler to leave Japanese waters off the uninhabited Senkaku islets, which are in the East China Sea but controlled by Japan and claimed by China and Taiwan.

The government had refused to air the footage to avoid worsening already strained ties with Beijing over the maritime run-in, which included the JCG arresting the trawler's skipper. On Nov. 1, a select group of some 30 Diet lawmakers were allowed to view an edited seven-minute version of the footage.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized for the video leak Monday to the Lower House Budget Committee.

"It was mismanagement on the part of the government," said Kan. "I offer an apology."

After the footage was leaked, the coast guard and prosecutor's offices with access to the video conducted internal investigations. But the prosecutors concluded Monday that there is no evidence to indicate they were the source of the leak.

Sengoku also said the government may consider stiffening penalties against public servants who leak government secrets, or submit to the Diet a bill to legislate a new law to strengthen management of government-designated confidential materials.

Information from Kyodo added.

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The Japan Times

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