TOKYO — Japan is weighing the release of video footage showing a collision earlier this week between a North Korean fishing vessel and a Japanese patrol ship, the top government spokesman said Friday.
“We are considering when and how to release (the video),” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference, referring to the collision Monday in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
“The video captured the scene when the collision occurred,” Suga said without giving further details.
The government had been reluctant to release the video while the Japan Coast Guard was investigating the incident. But a government official said Friday, releasing it “will no longer affect the investigation.”
The collision occurred at around 9:07 a.m. Monday around 350 kilometers northwest of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, near the fertile squid and fishing waters of the Yamatotai area of the Sea of Japan.
Suspecting that the North Korean vessel had been illegally fishing in the EEZ, the 1,300-ton Japanese patrol ship Okuni warned it to leave by speaker and directed water cannon at it.
The fishing vessel then collided with the patrol ship, operated by the Japanese Fisheries Agency, and sank about 20 minutes later. All of the crew, numbering as many as 60, survived and left the area on a different North Korean vessel that was nearby.
Japanese authorities did not detain the crew as they could not obtain evidence of illegal fishing, according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has vowed “resolute” action to rein in illicit activities by foreign vessels.
Some ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have criticized the handling of the incident as lukewarm and called for the release of the video.
Alarmed by a recent rise in illegal fishing by North Korean and Chinese vessels, local fishermen have been urging Japanese authorities to increase patrols.
The Fisheries Agency has already released some photos, including one that captured water cannon being targeted at the North Korean fishing vessel.