Diet panel gets video of trawler collisions

by Alex Martin and Natsuko Fukue

Prosecutors submitted video footage of collisions between a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard vessels near the Senkaku islets in September to a Diet committee Wednesday amid an ongoing diplomatic spat between the two countries.

The opposition has been pressing the government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to submit the footage to the Diet. The video allegedly shows the Chinese trawler ramming the two coast guard boats.

“It contains the criminal acts that led to the arrest and detention” of the Chinese skipper, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told a regular news conference, after he watched the 7-minute video footage along with Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the morning.

Concerned that the footage might trigger further tension between China and Japan, the government and DPJ have requested it be disclosed only to a select few lawmakers. The Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition force, has asked for its full disclosure.

“In disclosing this, it needs to be carefully handled in light of the effect it has on the international political environment,” said Sengoku as he read aloud a letter of request submitted to the Diet. The Naha District Prosecutor’s Office also submitted a similar letter of request.

A decision regarding how and to whom the video should be released will be made by the executive board of the Lower House Budget Committee.

Speaking to reporters in the Diet, DPJ Diet Affairs Chief Yoshio Hachiro said the footage has been submitted to the Budget Committee for deliberations, but declined to elaborate on how it was to be disclosed.

“It is up to the Budget Committee” to decide on what to do with the footage, Hachiro said.

Earlier in the day, Hiroshi Nakai, Lower House chairman of the Budget Committee, received the footage from Lower House Chairman Takahiro Yokomichi, who cautioned Nakai to be discreet when handling the footage and in deciding whom to show it to.