Tokyo: Japan is considering punishing more than 50 coastguard officials over the leak of a video showing a collision between Japanese and Chinese vessels that sparked a major row, reports said on Monday.
The officials include a 43-year-old officer who has admitted to leaking the video, the Sankei Shimbun and Kyodo News reported, quoting unnamed sources.
More than 50 others may also be punished for failing properly to supervise the officer and prevent the leak of the video showing a high-seas collision near disputed islands that led to a row with China, they said.
The officer, whose name was not given, has already submitted a letter of resignation but the coastguard has not officially accepted it, considering taking disciplinary action against him, news reports said.
Prosecutors are expected to decide next month whether to charge the officer for violating the national public service law, which prohibits civil servants from leaking confidential information they obtain through their work.
The officer has reportedly said he uploaded the leaked footage to the video-sharing site YouTube in a move that risked inflaming the already bitter feud between the two nations.
Tokyo has confirmed the authenticity of the video clips that appeared on YouTube showing a Chinese fishing trawler colliding with two Japanese coastguard vessels in the East China Sea in early September.
The collision took place near the disputed but uninhabited chain of islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
Japan`s arrest of the Chinese trawler captain sparked a barrage of protests from Beijing that continued after Japan released him, sending diplomatic relations plunging to their lowest point in years.
The footage was taken by the coastguard during the incident and not released to the public for fear of heightening tensions, but it was available on YouTube last month and has been widely shown by Japanese television.