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Senkaku \'invasion\': You decide

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COMMENTS

8 November 2010 14:05

Early last Friday, video footage of the September 7 collision between the Japan Coast Guard and a Chinese fishing boat was leaked on Youtube by a user known only as Sengoku38. While this account is now closed, the videos themselves are still accessible (thanks to Joel Rathus for the links), and have been reported widely in the mainstream media. But the story told by these pictures is not always clear cut: some of the footage suggests (to me, at least) that the Japanese vessel may have mismanaged at least one part of the encounter (see clip No. 5). Others (eg No. 6) suggest an error, or aggression, by the Chinese fishing boat.

The collisions are in clips No. 4 to 6. The others provide some interesting context.

No. 1: Shows the Japanese vessel manoeuvring to head off the Chinese fishing boat:

No. 2: Shows the fishing vessel pulling in its fishing nets, presumably to illustrate that the Japanese vessel observed the maritime rule that a vessel engaged in fishing has right of way over other power vessels:

No. 3: Close–up footage of the Chinese boat bringing in its fishing nets:

No. 4: Shows the Japanese vessel circling the Chinese boat, which, cut off, apparently rams it in the stern (the collision is at 2:15 minutes into this clip):

No. 5: Is this another collision' Note the siren is sounding in this clip, which is missing from the previous clip. The Japanese vessel appears to be trying to head off the Chinese boat. Whatever the reason, a collision results:

No. 6: And another perspective: this one sees the Japanese vessel changing course to come alongside the Chinese boat, which then appears to accelerate and strike the Japanese vessel:

The incident, and in particular China’s indignant response to Japan's arrest of the fishing captain, has had wide geopolitical repercussions. It is widely believed to have bolstered Japanese public support for the US-Japan security alliance and to have contributed to a perceived pattern of Chinese maritime assertiveness this year, which in turn has driven balancing behaviour by other some Asian states and Washington. It remains to be seen whether public access to this footage alters the debate at all.

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