Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Japan's new government stands by whaling
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Japan's new government urged Australia on Tuesday to help prevent violent attacks by activists on Japanese whalers as it stood by the country's traditional support for whaling, an official said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada met his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith on the sidelines of this year's UN General Assembly.
Okada was appointed last Wednesday when Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was sworn in at the head of his new center-left government after winning the country's elections.
The victorious Democratic Party of Japan formed a coalition government with two small parties under Hatoyama, ending half a century of almost uninterrupted rule by the country's conservative Liberal Democratic Party.
"During the meeting, our minister called for Australia's cooperation against groups like Sea Shepherd (Conservation Society), which resort to violent action," a Japanese foreign ministry official said.
Smith stopped short of replying to the request, only saying Australia wants to resolve the dispute through dialogue to avoid straining relations.
"Our minister did not clearly state that the new Japanese government supports whaling, but I understand that his remarks were quite in line with the stance held by our previous cabinet on the subject," the official said.
Anti-whaling nations led by Australia and New Zealand, as well as environmental groups, have attacked Japan for its annual whaling expeditions, including in Antarctic waters, criticizing them as cruel and unnecessary.
Japan hunts whales by using a loophole in the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows whales to be killed for "lethal research," and Tokyo often accuses western critics of insensitivity toward its culture.