Learn Senkaku lessons: Beef up crisis control
Prosecutors in Tokyo and Naha brought two related incidents to their final legal conclusions Friday as they decided to indict neither the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that crashed into two Japan Coast Guard patrol ships off the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture last year nor the former JCG officer who leaked video footage of that incident onto the Internet.
There were multiple problems with the entire process of the government's handling of the two cases--from the arrest and release of the Chinese captain to the splash the leaked video made on the Internet.
The government must now take this opportunity to improve its crisis management and information control policies by fully and closely examining the development of the two cases.
Prosecution authorities decided not to indict the former JCG officer, whose papers had been sent to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of violating his duty to preserve secrets under the National Civil Service Law. They did so in consideration of several points, including the fact that every employee at the JCG could view the footage in question due to sloppy handling by the JCG.
The former officer already resigned after he was given a 12-month suspension from duty. This probably also affected the decision.
No official revelation
There was no doubt of the illegality of the actions of the Chinese fishing boat that rammed the JCG patrol vessels in Japanese territorial waters.
Despite that, the government did not make the video footage recorded by the JCG public immediately after the incident and thus missed the chance to use it to convince the world of the legitimacy of Japan's arrest of the captain.
The government continued to refuse to reveal the footage to the general public. Such inaction virtually invited the video leak to occur.
It is crystal clear that the government made bad judgments.
Opposition parties passed censure motions against former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku and former Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi in the House of Councillors.
In the eyes of the public, some politicians would have to take responsibility for the cases. Thus, it is safe to say that this current of public opinion supported the opposition parties' demands that the two ministers be removed from office.
Clearly, the government must immediately tackle the task of improving its information control system. As the video leak case shows, information can spread across the Internet in the blink of an eye. The government must provide a thorough education in ethics to public servants concerning the handling of information.
Political settlement surely made
Meanwhile, Naha prosecutors said Friday they decided not to indict the Chinese captain for reasons including the fact that there were no injuries in the incident.
However, we believe that prosecutors had already decided not to pursue criminal punishment of the captain when he was released and sent back to China, even though the case against him had not officially been dropped at that point.
It is still not known exactly what happened in the process leading up to the captain's release. The government has called it an independent decision by the prosecutors. But we believe a political settlement must have been made on the matter due to pressure from China--including the detention of Japanese company employees in that country.
We would like the government to seriously consider the fact that it has caused the Japanese people to doubt the independence of the justice system.
Another necessary step is the strengthening of the JCG's activities in guarding the nation's territorial waters.
The Senkaku collision case has raised various issues that the government has to consider in the fields of diplomacy and national security.
How should Japan build relationships hereafter with China, which is making increasing territorial claims and expanding its military presence on the sea? We again urge the government to study this question from a political viewpoint, learning valuable lessons from the two incidents.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 22, 2011)