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Japanese ex-coastguard defends China video leak

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 14, 2011
A former Japanese coastguard officer who leaked a video of a tense maritime incident with a Chinese trawler on YouTube said Monday he had acted in the interest of his country.

The series of collisions in disputed waters in September between two Japanese coastguard patrol boats and the Chinese fishing vessel sparked the worst diplomatic crisis in years between Tokyo and Beijing.

The former officer, Masaharu Isshiki, 44, was unapologetic about posting a clip of the incidents on video sharing website YouTube after the Japanese government had kept the sensitive footage under wraps for weeks.

"I took the action after thinking about what carries more weight -- the government directive or the real interest of the nation and the people," Isshiki told the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ).

Without naming China, Isshiki also said that "a certain country" had taken actions that could be seen as readying for an invasion of the uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

The posting of the video, which showed the Chinese boat ramming the Japanese ships, infuriated Beijing, which had blamed the Japanese side for the incident.

Japanese authorities launched a probe into the leak of classified footage but did not prosecute Isshiki, who said Monday he had resigned in December to take responsibility for breaching Coast Guard rules.

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, an outspoken nationalist, Monday lauded the former officer as a "patriot", contrasting his action with what he characterised as the weak-kneed stance of the centre-left government.

"Representing the people of Japan, I pay my sincere respect and gratitude from the bottom of my heart," said Ishihara, sitting in the FCCJ audience.

"There is no way that the government of traitors to their own country could prosecute a patriot."

A conservative radio show host, Hikaru Aoba, who was also attending the Tokyo press conference, called Isshiki "a hero who took action by sacrificing his family and job and at the risk of his life".

Isshiki modestly said it would be "wrong to call me a hero," drawing laughter when he added: "I'm fond of my life".

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