TOKYO—Tokyo is investigating the possible leak of a video showing a collision between Japanese coast guard vessels and a Chinese fishing boat off disputed islands that spiked tensions between the Asian neighbors, Japan’s foreign minister said Friday.
The Sept. 7 collision sparked a high-level rift with Beijing because it occurred in waters near a group of islands claimed by Japan and China in the East China Sea. Several large anti-Japanese demonstrations have occurred in response across China.
The video appeared on YouTube on Friday, and was widely picked up by Japanese television networks.
“If this means that information from the government has been leaked, we must handle this as an incident,” Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a parliamentary committee.
Japanese media reported that several government sources had confirmed the authenticity of the video, but Foreign Ministry and coast guard officials said it was still being checked. Maehara said criminal action would be taken if necessary, particularly if the video was leaked by a government employee.
The video has raised concerns of rekindled tensions ahead of an international summit in Japan next week. Tokyo hopes to have a meeting with China’s leader on the sidelines of the summit.
The video showed a ship bumping a Japanese vessel, while sirens wailed in the background and the Japanese crew shouted orders for the ship to stop. A voice on the video said in Japanese.
“The ship is taking aggressive action.” The ship then appeared to ram the Japanese vessel. The video was taken from aboard the Japanese vessel, which seemed to be a coast guard patrol craft.
“Check our position!,” the voice said. The ship then steamed away.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku called the release of the video “unexpected and grave” because it is evidence in a continuing investigation into the collision. Sengoku also confirmed Friday that China has questioned Japan through diplomatic channels about the video’s release.
On Monday, about 30 members of Japan’s parliament reviewed a video of the collision which was reportedly about six minutes long. The video was not officially released to the public or other members of parliament.
Japan’s coast guard claims the captain of the Chinese ship refused to stop for an inspection and collided with its vessels. The captain was arrested and prosecutors considered pressing charges, but he was later released and sent back to China.
China has said the video does not change its view that Japan acted illegally by arresting the fishing boat captain.
“The so-called video cannot change the truth and cannot cover up the unlawfulness of the Japanese action,” spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website earlier this week.
Called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, the islands are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China. Located 120 miles (190 kilometers) east of Taiwan, the islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are regularly occupied by nationalists from both sides.
After the collision, China demanded an apology and compensation, but Tokyo countered by demanding that Beijing pay for damage to the patrol boats.
Beijing cut off ministerial-level contacts with Japan, repeatedly called in Tokyo’s ambassador to complain, and postponed talks on the joint development of undersea natural gas fields.