TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s coast guard said Wednesday it will punish two dozen employees over the leak of a sensitive video of collisions between a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese patrol vessels near disputed islands.
The Sept. 7 incident deeply strained Japan-China ties, with Tokyo insisting the Chinese captain was at fault but declining to release video from the scene publicly. Last month, a version was leaked onto YouTube and replayed constantly on national television.
On Wednesday, an officer who claimed responsibility for the leak was suspended for a year, although he quit his post the same day, the coast guard said in a statement. Other officials were given reduced pay and reprimands for improper handling and management of the video within the coast guard.
“In an impermissible act, an official intentionally leaked information received through duties onto the Internet. This had a large effect on society and damaged the people’s trust in the coast guard,” said Commandant Suzuki Hisayasu, whose salary was docked by 10 percent for a month over the incident.
The case involving the officer, 43-year-old Masaharu Ishiki, was also sent to public prosecutors for allegedly violating laws requiring secrecy by public servants, Kyodo News agency said. If charged and convicted, he could face up to a year in prison or a 500,000 yen ($6,000) fine.
Ishiki has said he has no regrets in leaking the video, which he made public so that people could see the incident and judge it for themselves.
The video, since confirmed as authentic by the Japanese government, shows a trawler bumping a Japanese vessel, while sirens wail in the background and the Japanese crew shouts orders for the ship to stop. The ship appears to ram Japanese vessels several times.
Many in Japan felt that Tokyo capitulated to Beijing in the days following the collision, which occurred off islands controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.
China’s reaction to the collision was particularly strident, demanding an apology and compensation. That stunned Japan, which released the arrested captain of the Chinese vessel but also demanded payment for damages to its patrol boats.
China also postponed talks on the joint development of undersea natural gas fields and imposed a de facto ban on exports to Japan of rare earth elements, essential for making high-tech products.