TOKYO - VIDEO footage of a ship collision between Japan's coastguard and a Chinese trawler two months ago has been leaked online, threatening to further strain Tokyo-Beijing ties, media reports said on Friday.

The two Asian giants have been embroiled in their worst spat in years over the incident in early September near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea, which led Japan to arrest the skipper and detain him for several weeks.

China called the arrest invalid and illegal and reacted with a series of protests and other diplomatic countermeasures. Video footage of the collisions, taken by Japan's coastguard, has been shown to Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan and some Japanese lawmakers but not made available to the wider public for fear of inflaming the dispute.

But Japan's Jiji Press and other media reported early Friday that the footage had been found uploaded on the free video-sharing site YouTube. The video was divided into six parts and totalled 44 minutes, Jiji said.

The Sankei daily in an online report quoted an unnamed Japanese coastguard officer as saying: 'It's probably real footage.' The news came as Asia's two biggest economies have been seeking to repair ties after their prime ministers, Mr Kan and Mr Wen Jiabao, have failed at two recent summits in Brussels and Hanoi to hold formal bilateral talks.

Tokyo and Beijing have sought to end the feud during which nationalist rallies have been held in both countries. Kyodo News reported that Japan's top government spokesman Yoshito Sengoku and visiting former Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan agreed on Thursday to make efforts to improve ties.

Ship collision on YouTube