Japan says its whaling programme in the northern Pacific will continue, despite a landmark decision by the International Court of Justice, banning its larger annual hunt in the Southern Ocean. In its judgement, the court also asked Japan to reconsider its Pacific research programme. Despite its disappointment, Japan says it will abide by the ICJ's ruling, and adds that its strategic relationship with Australia - which brought the case against Japan - will NOT be affected. Chris Uhlmann from Radio Australia interviewed Nori Shikata, spokeman, Japanese delegation to the International Court of Justice.
“Japan is bitterly disappointed and regrets that the court ruled that Japan's research whaling program in the Antarctic did not fall within the special permit clause of the treaty. However, Japan will abide by the judgement of the court as a state that places great importance on the international legal order and the rule of law.”
Q: Of course, this does deal with a specific type of whaling. Is it possible that Japan might see it has traditional rights and go back to a traditional form of whaling?
“It's not only Japan that is engaged in whaling. It's almost nearly 10 countries in the world, including the United States, Canada, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Russia among others.”
Q: So in your view it is likely that Japan may assert those kinds of rights?
“What we have said today is, as a state - a responsible state - that places a great importance on the international legal order and the rule of law, we will abide by the judgement of the courts - and as far as a future course of action, of course, the judgement is lengthy and we have to examine very carefully what the court is actually saying.”
Q: Of course that judgement is also narrow, because it doesn't deal, for example, with the second program that you have in the northern Pacific, so is that program unlikely to be affected by this?
“Our program in the northern Pacific is outside the scope of the proceedings before the court, and so they are two separate programs and this ruling is about the program in the Antarctic.”
Q: How important is scientific whaling?
“For us, of course, a scientific research program is essential for conservation and management of whales and we don't know very much about stocks and different species among the whales. We are of the view that it is important to carry out scientific research program, and I don't think the court has ruled against the importance of a scientific research program.”
Q: But the court did say that the scientific output to date appears to be limited.
“The court pointed out that Jarpa II, our current research program, has some shortcomings, including the number of (inaudible) take - the samples - and the court did refer to the possibility of more use of non-lethal methods.”
Q: What's the likely reaction of the Japanese population and particularly to the fact that Australia brought this case against Japan?
“Of course, there a number of people in Japan who are engaged in the whaling activity. There will be a number of people who will be affected because of this decision.”
“However, what we are saying is that, number one, we will abide by the decision, and also, as for the relation between Japan and Australia, we think that our relations are very important.”
“We call it strategic partners, encompassing political, security, economic and cultural exchanges.”