Saturday, November 06, 2010

Senkaku-Diaoyu Naval Battle: Japan's Government Caught in the Nets of YouTube!

At this stage, according to some of my informed sources, Chinese President HU Jintao will not hold a bilateral summit with Japanese prime minister Naoto KAN during the coming APEC Summit in Yokohama. But former vice president Lien Chan is expected to meet the Chinese President Hu Jintao on behalf of President Ma Yingjeou of Taipei.

Diplomatic patch needed, anyone on zone?

Early on Friday October 5th, 44 minutes of footage claiming to show the Senkaku Daioyu naval September incident were posted on the YouTube video-sharing website, sending officials in Tokyo and Beijing rushing in to contain the damage, a week before Japan hosts the APEC, the Asia-Pacific summit. A new episode in the ups and downs of the Naoto Kan administration.

The latest row, facts

According to local media: "Leaked video footage that appears to be of the September collisions between Japanese [ndag: Coast Guards] patrol boats and a Chinese trawler off a disputed island chain [ndag: the Senkaku Diaoyu islands] shows the names of Japan Coast Guard officers and subtitles explaining what is happening, Coast Guard and investigative sources said Saturday.

Prosecutors and the Coast Guard have launched a probe into the case, believing the video clips are among those edited by the Ishigaki Coast Guard office for submission as investigative materials to the Naha District Public Prosecutors Office, the sources said." This is in Today's Mainichi shimbun.

"Concerned about a possible angry reaction from China, the Japanese government Friday was scrambling to determine who leaked video footage of a Chinese trawler ramming Japan Coast Guard vessels off the disputed Senkaku Islands. Prime Minister Naoto Kan instructed Cabinet ministers to thoroughly investigate the source of the leak, which has further damaged Japan's reputation concerning information management." Today's Asahi shimbun writes.

In the early incident, the Japanese coast-guard arrested a Chinese trawler captain in early September for allegedly ramming two of its patrol boats near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea, sparking a barrage of protests from Beijing. The incident was sensitive because both sides claim the potentially resource-rich islets, known as the Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, along with the nearby seas where the incidents took place.

After the Google YouTube leakage (who did it by the way and who left 280 DVDs of the leaked footage in a corridor near the east exit of East Japan Railway Co.'s Kawaguchi Station on Friday morning?)*, of course it did not take much time for China to put the blame on Japan for the maritime incident that sparked the worst row between the Asian powers in years, after the leak of the video apparently showing the collision.

At this moment, in this video, it is difficult to identify the course of the Chinese fishermen boat and of the 2 Japanese Navy war boats and confirm an obstruction, a strong wave causing shock, or a direct clash. It also is not clear to assess the exact situation as seen in this filming after 1'42" --the camera moved out of the spotted scene at the exact alleged collision moment-- and also in the editing added to the filming --names of the JCG personal--. The whole "strange" thing escalating into an incident not only between Japan and China but also between political parties and the administration in Tokyo.

Now, the impression after watching the videos is that after being spotted and circled by the JCG, the Chinese trawler escaped out of the zone, which at a certain point ended in naval collisions. Is it a simple sea navigation accident or a political Senkaku Daioyu Incident? None at this stage has had the guts to offer a plausible analysis.

"I would like to reiterate that the Japanese side had disturbed, driven away, intercepted and surrounded the Chinese fishing boat, which led to the collision," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement. "The behaviour of the Japanese side was illegal," Hong said, when asked to comment on the leaked video. "The so-called video cannot change the fact and cannot conceal the unlawfulness of the Japanese action," the spokesman added.

China certainly is watching the Foreign affairs minister Maehara, seen as a hawk compared to the doves of the DPJ, quotes: "Nevertheless, he [ndag: Maehara] should know that he is the focal point of Chinese attention, after having called the Chinese government response to the September 7 fishing boat captain incident "hysterical." (Shisaku blog, quotes, Oct 30, 2010)

What was shown on YouTube

The YouTube clip appears to show the blue Chinese boat, marked the Minjinyu 5179, colliding with a grey-hulled Japanese boat as a plume of black smoke is seen billowing from the patrol ship.

Yesterday, Japanese television stations showed the clips throughout the day, assuming them to be authentic, although no officials have confirmed this on the record. Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a media briefing: "I think it probably was taken by the coast-guard. That is how I feel after seeing the footage." He said the Chinese embassy in Tokyo had called Japan's foreign ministry to enquire about the leak, and that China later had "expressed concern and conveyed worry in Tokyo and Beijing through diplomatic channels".

We've seen what happened last time Beijing and Tokyo tried to mend. This leakage happened a few hours after Thursday visit of former PRC State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan who had agreed to make efforts to improve bilateral with the Chief cabinet secretary Sengoku, adding red face to the Japanese authorities while welcoming their host. Maybe it's time for Tokyo's current administration to reconsider the elementary definition of the words diplomacy and political maturity while Beijing seems comfortable in playing a new regional leader role... Tang visited in Japan since last Friday as the PRC chairman of the new "Japan-PRC friendship committee for the 21st century", also met with ruling Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Katsuya Okada, opposition Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki and Japan Business Federation Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura.

* Quotes regarding the "Collision DVDs left at Saitama station; memo swipes at DPJ"

Saitama police are analyzing about 280 DVDs that were found Friday at a train station in Saitama Prefecture and are thought to be recordings of video footage apparently showing the September collisions between Japan Coast Guard cutters and a Chinese trawler off the Senkaku Islands, sources said. The DVDs were in two cardboard boxes left in a corridor near the east exit of East Japan Railway Co.'s Kawaguchi Station in the morning, the sources said. According to the sources, an attached memo read: "This indicates the realities of the Democratic Party of Japan. . . . Feel free to take these with you." The DVDs were discovered after video footage of what is believed to be the incident in the East China Sea on Sept. 7 was posted on YouTube Thursday night, they said. The police are trying to determine how the DVDs were made, suspecting a party critical of the ruling DPJ or China may have left them at the station. It is not clear whether the DVDs were made by the same party that uploaded the collision video on YouTube. (Kyodo Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010)


After the "western agencies" some quotes of Chinese and Hong Kong press, the comments and observations are quite astonishing.

South China Morning Post
Collision video turns up the heat again
November 6, 2010.

Japan said it is investigating the leak of a video showing a collision between a Japanese coastguard vessel and a Chinese fishing boat off the disputed Diaoyu Islands in September that inflamed bilateral tensions. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing expressed concern over the video, and diplomatic and military experts said the footage proved that Japanese patrol ships had been to blame for the incident as they had sought to contain the Chinese trawler.

Forty-four minutes of video footage, posted on YouTube yesterday morning, was widely picked up by Japanese television networks, prompting Beijing to express concern and sending Japanese officials scrambling to contain the damage, a week before Japan hosts an Asia-Pacific summit.

The clip appears to show the blue Chinese boat, the Minjinyu 5179, which was later detained by Japan, colliding with a grey-hulled patrol ship as a plume of black smoke billows from the Japanese vessel. Antony Wong Dong, president of the Macau International Military Association, said the video had been shot in such a way as to show the Chinese trawler intentionally crashing into the Japanese ship. "The video obviously was recorded by a cameraman on the Japanese coastguard boat, who used a good angle to shoot the whole process," Wong said. "We don't know whether the Chinese trawler was provoked before the collision, but it crashed rapidly into the Japanese ship after being circled by the Japanese vessel, which raises doubts about whether the Chinese side was provoked or had no other choice but to ram it."

Video footage taken by the Japanese coastguard had previously only been shown to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, security officials and some lawmakers, but not released to the public for fear it would worsen the spat. "I have a strong sense of crisis because our information management is not in shape," Kan said. "It is important for both countries to respond calmly even if such a problem arises."

Japanese foreign minister Seiji Maehara told a parliamentary committee that the Japanese government would investigate the leak. He said the Chinese embassy in Tokyo had called Japan's foreign ministry to check into the leak, and that China later had "expressed concern and conveyed worry in Tokyo and Beijing through diplomatic channels".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said yesterday that the collision had occurred because the Japanese coastguard was undertaking "illegal operations" within Chinese territorial waters in the East China Sea. "The so-called video cannot either change such a fact or cover up Japan's illegality," Hong said in a statement on the ministry's website.

Beijing-based Sino-Japanese experts said the collision video would not harm China's international image, but would cause more domestic problems for Japan. "The video showed clearly that our small trawler was contained by at least three big Japanese coastguard patrol ships, which is like a poor child being bullied by three bruisers," Gao Haikuan , a specialist in northeast Asian security with the Chinese Association for International Friendly Contact, said. "I believe our fishing boat was forced to clash with the Japanese ship as it was under great pressure."

Kan is hoping to talk with President Hu Jintao when they attend next week's Asia-Pacific forum in Yokohama, and both Gao and Wong said the footage might have been leaked by Japanese right-wingers seeking to derail the talks.

Jiang Lifeng , former director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Japanese Studies, said the video had also pushed Kan into an embarrassing position. "Actually, both Kan and Maehara decided not to make the video public as they wanted to improve ties with China," Jiang said. "However, the video dragged them back into the crisis, ruining their plan."

Ming Pao Editorial. November 6, 2010.

From the YouTube video, the Minjinyu 5179 collided twice with Japanese coast guard ships. In the collision with patrol boat the Yonakuni, the ocean wake showed that the Yonakuni accelerated rapidly from the right hand side of the Minjinyu 5179, turned and decelerated in front of the Minjinyu 5179. Although the Minjinyu 5179 was slower, it still collided with the stern of the Yonakuni because the distance was too short.

In the other collision between the Minjinyu 5179 and the patrol boat the Mizuki, the ocean wake showed that the Mizuki was on the left side of the Minjinyu 5179. As the two ships neared each other, the Mizuki swung its tail at the Minjinyu 5179 (like a "dragon shaking its tail"). If this was a case of car driving, it would be reckless conduct by deliberately inducing the Minjinyu 5179 to collide. A marine expert who viewed the video concluded that the Japanese coast guard ships had flaws in their conduct when they deliberately caused collisions.

These videos were shot and edited by the Japanese on the basis of seeking public opinion support. As such, they ought to be showing the most favorable contents and angles for Japan. But these leaked videos do not establish that the Minjinyu 5179 deliberately rammed the Japanese ships. On the contrary, the behavior and motive of the Yonakuni and the Mizuki are debatable. When an edited video was showed to a group of Japanese parliamentarians recently, they unanimously condemned the Minjinyu 5179. But the facts now showed that it would be highly prejudiced to state that the Minjinyu 5179 bore all responsibility.

Oriental Daily

After watching the collision video, a Hong Kong marine expert Tony P.K. Yeung from the Maritime Services Training Institute pointed out that the Japanese coast guard deliberately intercepted the Chinese trawler and caused it to collide with the patrol boat. He criticized the Japanese ship for reckless behavior which might have caused the trawler to sink. The behavior violated international navigation norms.

In the first collision, the Japanese ship had been on the right behind the trawler. Then it suddenly accelerated, turned left and decelerated. The trawler could not brake quickly enough in seas with one meter waves. This gave the impression that the trawler rammed the patrol boat.

The marine expert pointed out that when a trawler is towing fishing nets, its motion is restricted. Any ship in front of such a trawler should take evasive action. But the Japanese ship did not take any evasive action. After the collision, the Japanese ship did not stop. Instead, it accelerated (with lots of black smoke appearing) and it turned its stern around, creating a huge wave directed at the trawler. There was a likelihood that the trawler might have sunk.

The marine expert said that the maximum speed of the Chinese trawler was at most 15 knots, whereas the Japanese boats can run at between 20 to 25 knots. "There was no way that a slower boat could collided a faster boat." From the photos that Japanese showed later, the damage from the collisions was minimal, indicating that the Chinese trawler did not carry a lot of momentum. He characterized the behavior of the Japanese boats was dangerous and inconsistent with international navigation norms.

Sources: Google YouTube,,
Asahi, Mainichi, Japan Times, Shisaku blog, Agencies,
SCMP, Min Pao, Oriental Daily,
Reporter's Notes

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