Japan will defend 'whaling rights'
Tokyo says annual hunt not illegal as Australia and New Zealand threaten court action.
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2010 04:59 GMT
Katsuya Okada, left, who held talks with Kevin Rudd said the threat to sue was "unfortunate" [EPA]

Japan will defend its right to carry on whaling despite a threat of possible legal action led by Australia, a top government official has said.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Monday, Hirofumi Hirano, the Japanese cabinet secretary, said Japan's annual hunt "is not an illegal act".

The hunt, which Japan says is for scientific research purposes, is permitted under agreements with the International Whaling Commission (IWC), he said.

Hirano's comments came after Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, last week warned Japan that it must halt its whaling in the waters off Antarctica, or face action in the International Court of Justice.

On Monday, New Zealand's government said it would consider joining any Australian legal case to force Japan to halt whaling.

"New Zealand is opposed to whaling in the Southern Ocean. We've made that quite clear. We've also made it clear our preference is to try and find and diplomatic solution," John Key, New Zealand's prime minister, told local media.

"If the diplomatic solution fails and the only option available is a court action, at that time we will consider whether we'll join Australia."

'Unfortunate move'

Japan's foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, who held talks with Rudd in Australia at the weekend, described the threat of legal action as "unfortunate".

The Japanese hunt off Antarctica kills hundreds of whales each year, drawing fierce criticism from Australia and New Zealand, both of whom have long been staunch opponents of whaling.

Commercial whaling has been banned worldwide since 1986 but Japan continues its annual hunts justifying them as "scientific research" which is allowed under a loophole permitted by the IWC.

Japan does not hide the fact that the whale meat is later sold commercially in shops and restaurants but says the money is used to cover research costs.

It also argues that whaling has been part of Japanese culture for centuries.

Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
Iran's government has shifted its take on 'brain drain' but is the change enough to reverse the flow?
Deadly attacks on anti-mining activists in the Philippines part of a global trend, according to new report.
join our mailing list