The video leak is a serious problem for the Kan administration, but there’s more than this and they are accumulating on Chief Cabinet Secretary (CCS) Yoshito Sengoku’s doorsteps. In this particular instant, making the legally unsound statement that equated it with a group of public prosecutors allegedly involved in the fabrication of evidence to buttress a weak criminal charge and the subsequent cover-up when the fabrication came to light in an attempt to put all the blame on the bureaucracy—which, ironically, it mostly should properly be placed—is going to backfire on him. He has a tendency to wing it in the spotlight—which is really not what the CCS should be doing, though I can't blame him much, given that Kan has turned out not to be a good communicator as prime minister, which fact has been a surprise to me—and have to walk it back, apologize, bluff his way though, whatever. That’s not good. Now let’s look at how his statement is ill-considered.
A) One is a criminal offense by an agent of the state against an individual, while the other is a piece of administrative malfeasance and only possibly a criminal offense by an agent of the state against the state. The latter can, yes, go all the way up to insurrection, but I'm sure that a leak that has little practical effect than to confirm the allegations of the Japanese government pales in comparison to an attempt to sustain an unsound indictment by tampering with the evidence (and entrap the defendant), casting a heavy pall on the entire prosecution process.
B) The evident contrast between the politically motivated release of the Chinese fisherman and the harsh treatment of the Japanese Coast Guard officer, assuming that the officer is indicted, will be all too painful, while the Kan administration will look utterly foolish if the official is not.
C) My guess is that the video was passed around among the officers like a Paris Hilton home movie, and the guy in Kobe got so mad that he went and posted his copy on YouTube. That, Mr. Hatoyama, is administrative failure, not a coup. (Yes, ex-Prime Minister called it a “coup d’état by members of the government.” And ex-MIAC Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi used the word “insurrection against the state.”
Okay, C) is more of an aside, but my point is that bombastic misstatements from Hatoyama, Sengoku and the like indicate how seriously the DPJ is taking this as a threat to the long-term survival of the DPJ regime. This and Ozawa's lie-in—refusal to testify in the Diet—are playing havoc with the legislative schedule in this extraordinary session as well as with public opinion*, and jeopardizing prospects of expanding alliances, most plausibly with Komeito. Meanwhile, Kamei is yapping about the Japan Post and worker dispatching agency bills. Ozawa is likely to continue to dig in, so that issue will linger well into the regular Diet session, which overlaps with the consolidated local elections in April. As a Japanese voter, I'm beginning to worry that Kan will be too weakened to push the debates on consumption taxation and Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, facing down opponents with the threat of a snap election if necessary.
* The near-universal public outcry in Japan reminds me albeit in very low-key form of the way Kim Jong Il’s revelations over the abductees blew up in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s face (though to be fair, he showed a remarkable stick-to-it-iveness through his second trip to North Korea and beyond).