TOKYO (AP) — Japanese officials are checking the authenticity of a video purportedly showing a collision between Japanese coast guard vessels and a Chinese fishing boat off disputed islands that was leaked Friday, potentially worsening a dispute between the Asian neighbors.
Coast guard spokeswoman Mariko Inoue said the government is checking into the video, which was shown on YouTube and then Japanese television networks.
The Sept. 7 collision sparked a high-level tiff 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 has raised concerns it could rekindle the dispute ahead of an international summit in Japan next week. Tokyo hopes to have a bilateral meeting with China's leader on the sidelines of the summit.
The video showed a trawler 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.
"Check our position!," the voice said. The trawler then steamed away.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku called the leak 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 about the leak through diplomatic channels.
"I don't think the Japanese government at this juncture intends to release the video," said Noriyuki Shikata, spokesman for prime minister's office. "The prime minister is saying that we have to conduct a thorough investigation and try find out the background of what happened, although we haven't confirmed that this is the true video."
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 made available to the public or other members of parliament, however.
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.
"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 parliament committee.
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," Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement posted on the ministry's website earlier this week.
Called Diaoyu or Diaoyutai in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, 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.
AP writers Shino Yuasa and Malcolm Foster contributed to this report.