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Friday, Feb. 18, 2011

Guardsman fast-tracks book, calls video leak 'civic duty'


Staff writer

The decision to leak classified footage of the Japan Coast Guard's run-in last year with a Chinese trawler wasn't an easy one to make, but ended up being a matter of civic duty, former coast guardsman Masaharu Isshiki says in his new book on the Senkaku Islands clash, in which he wasn't a participant.

News photo
Masaharu Isshiki YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

"Some people praise me and call me a hero, but I am not that noble of a person," Isshiki says in "Nanika no tame ni — sengoku38 no Kokuhaku" ("For Something — The Confession of sengoku38"), a copy of which was obtained by The Japan Times.

"Rather, I am just a person, trying to become someone noteworthy. . . . I did what was a matter of course as a Japanese citizen," he said.

In his book, to be published Friday by Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc., Isshiki reveals how conflicted he felt about leaking the footage, which captured the Sept. 7 ramming incident that set off a damaging bilateral spat with China.

"This was not a problem that could be rationalized simply by weighing the gains or losses," Isshiki said. "If I didn't do it, Japan would become a hopeless country."

Isshiki, 44, copied the video off of the coast guard's internal computer network and uploaded it to YouTube from an Internet cafe in Kobe on the evening of Nov. 4. The video went viral in hours, changing a foggy war of words into a public spectacle that clearly showed the Chinese trawler ramming two coast guard cutters while their crews shouted "Stop!"

Isshiki was detained, questioned and suspended for a year, prompting his move for an immediate discharge as a JCG Officer 3rd-Grade.

For days, Isshiki said he agonized over whether to follow orders and keep the video secret or do what he thought was "in the best interests of the nation as a whole."

At the same time, the husband and father said he had to weigh the risks of leaking the video against the impact it might have on his family.

According to Hideaki Abe of Asahi Shimbun Publications, the book deal emerged after Isshiki began looking for a way to explain his actions and provoke public thought.

Isshiki left the coast guard in December and is currently unemployed. According to Abe, Isshiki said he will start looking for a job once things calm down.

"I have asked myself time and time again whether what I did was right or wrong," Isshiki wrote. "But I know that I would have regretted it for the rest of my life if I hadn't caused this incident."



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