TOKYO (Reuters) - A member of Japan’s Coast Guard admitted on Wednesday putting a video of a collision between a Chinese trawler and Japanese patrol boats on the Internet , a development that could hurt efforts to mend bilateral ties.
Relations between Asia’s biggest economies have chilled since September, when Japan detained the Chinese skipper of the fishing boat after it crashed into Coast Guard ships near disputed isles in the East China Sea.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, said the leak by a government employee, if true, would be a grave matter, while Prime Minister Naoto Kan conceded he shares responsibility for the incident.
“No matter who did this, it is regrettable that information that was not supposed to become public has been disclosed,” Kan told a parliament panel.
“Various government branches have been involved in this. But as the person in charge of the cabinet, I would naturally be responsible as well.”
Media reports said the coastguard, who leaked the 44-minute video onto the YouTube website, was aged 43. No details were given about his job.
Beijing last week expressed concern to Japan about the video, which appears to show the Chinese boat being steered into the patrol vessels and could harden Japanese public opinion against China.
Asked what Japan would do if China demands an apology for the video leak, Sengoku brushed aside such a possibility.
“Why would China ask for apology? That’s totally unthinkable,” he told a news conference.
The leak added to headaches for Kan’s government, which has seen its support tumbling due in part to voter dissatisfaction with its handling of the territorial dispute, by casting doubt on its ability to keep control of confidential information.
Kan has ordered checks on the handling of such data, Sengoku said.
Japanese media earlier cited investigators as saying the video, which has been widely shown on television, had been posted onto YouTube from an Internet cafe in the western city of Kobe.
Police are planning to arrest the coastguard on suspicion of breaching the duty of confidentiality, media said.
The Chinese skipper was detained over the incident but later released, a move for which Kan has been harshly criticized.
No bilateral meeting between the heads of the two governments has so far been scheduled during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting this weekend in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Kan told the parliamentary committee.
But Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Japan is making effort through diplomatic channels to set up a meeting between Kan and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
(Editing by Sugita Katyal)
Reporting by Isabel Reynolds, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Yoko Nishikawa
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