JCG leak source: Defend Senkakus

by Jun Hongo

Beijing should provide peaceful, solid grounds to support its claim to the Senkaku Islands instead of taking a provocative tack, according to Masaharu Isshiki, the former coast guardsman who leaked classified footage of the Sept. 7 collisions between a Chinese trawler and coast guard cutters near the disputed islets.

Isshiki, who was discharged as a Japan Coast Guard Officer 3rd-Grade, uploaded the footage online in November depicting the trawler ramming the JCG cutters as they tried to evict it from the Japan-controlled Senkakus.

The trawler skipper’s subsequent arrest triggered diplomatic friction between Tokyo and Beijing, with China claiming he was illegally detained.

“There is no way to explain a trawler ramming into the patrol boat in such a manner,” Isshiki, 44, said Monday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, expressing concern that “neighboring countries” have begun “invading” Japanese territory.

Japan is “ready to rise up and defend its land” if defensive acts are permitted, he said.

On leaking the footage at a time when it was considered classified government information, Isshiki said the video was clearly not something that should have been hidden from public view.

“There is some information that must remain veiled from the public . . . but in this case, it wasn’t even close to borderline,” he said.

Isshiki copied the video file from the JCG’s internal network onto a USB data storage device and uploaded it to YouTube under his account Sengoku38. The video went viral within hours, “much faster than I expected,” he said.

“My wife was surprised at first, but she never criticized me” for the act, he added. Revelation that he was the source of the leak led to his December exit from the service.

Isshiki was questioned by prosecutors for alleged violation of the National Public Service Law. He was not indicted. The trawler skipper was released following pressure from Beijing.

Monday’s news conference at the FCCJ was attended by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who had long expressed support for Isshiki’s actions.

“On behalf of the Japanese public, I would like to express my respect and gratitude to you,” the hawkish governor said. “It is a shame that you resigned from your job.”

Isshiki, who served as the chief navigator aboard the JCG patrol boat Uranami, appeared undecided over what his next career move will be. He said he hadn’t considered entering the world of politics.

Asked if his YouTube account Sengoku38 was in any way mocking former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, Isshiki smiled and refused to reveal his intention. “I haven’t told the authorities or my lawyers or even my family what that really means,” he said. “Leaving some parts of the story a mystery will keep people guessing and thinking about it. And that is what I want.”