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Japan coastguard employee admits collision video leak

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 10, 2010
A Japan coastguard employee has admitted leaking a video on sharing website YouTube showing a high-seas collision near disputed islands that sparked a row with China, officials said Wednesday.

The move came after Japanese prosecutors seized user records from the video sharing site owned by search giant Google on Tuesday in a probe into the leak that risked inflaming the already bitter feud between the two nations.

A patrol boat crewmember with the coastguard's district No. 5 headquarters in Kobe confessed to the ship's captain on Wednesday to leaking the video, Coastguard commandant Hisayasu Suzuki told parliament.

Tokyo has confirmed the authenticity of the video clips, 44 minutes long in total, showing a Chinese fishing trawler colliding with two Japanese coastguard vessels in the East China Sea in early September.

Japan's arrest of the Chinese trawler captain sparked a barrage of protests from Beijing that continued after Japan released him, sending relations plunging to their lowest point in years.

The footage was taken by the Japanese coastguard during the incident and not released to the public for fear of heightening tensions, but it was available on YouTube Friday before being removed.

The video, which has since been re-broadcast widely by Japanese television stations, shows the collision near the uninhabited chain of islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Tokyo prosecutors and police are to question the person on suspicion of breaking the national public service act, public broadcaster NHK said, with the employee still on a coastguard ship which is to sail into Kobe port later Wednesday.

The law requires government employees to preserve the confidentiality of information they obtain through their work.

A coastguard spokeswoman declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

On Monday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologised in parliament, admitting the government had been "sloppy" in keeping the video secure.

The leak followed the illicit publication online last week of classified anti-terrorism documents that sparked immediate criticism as Japan prepares to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

The YouTube videos came as Asia's two biggest economies are seeking to repair ties after their prime ministers, Kan and Wen Jiabao, failed at two recent summits in Brussels and Hanoi to hold formal talks.

World leaders, including those of Japan and China, will meet this week for a G20 summit in South Korea and then the APEC summit in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

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