Japan, Australia agree to disagree over whale hunt


Tokyo : The leaders of Japan and Australia agreed on Thursday not to let a dispute over Japan’s annual whale hunts hurt bilateral ties, and pledged to strengthen their security and economic partnership, Reuters reported.

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The two countries will also work to find a solution to the whaling controversy, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

“On whaling, Prime Minister Fukuda and I have agreed that you can have disagreements between friends — one of the good products of us being strong democracies,” Rudd said on the last day of a five-day visit.

“We’ve also agreed that this disagreement should not undermine in any way the strength and positive nature of our viable relationship.”

Australia has been at the forefront of a global effort to force Japan to end its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic.

Earlier this year, Australia sent a fisheries and customs patrol ship to the Southern Ocean to gather photo and video evidence of Japan’s whaling programme for a possible legal challenge.

Canberra said the evidence could be used before tribunals including the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to stop the hunt.

Despite a global moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan, which argues that whaling is a cherished tradition, is allowed an annual “scientific” hunt. This year, the whaling fleet returned
home in April after catching only 551 minke whales.

In a joint statement, the two leaders “confirmed their commitment to strengthen further the comprehensive strategic, security and economic partnership between Japan and Australia”.

They also stressed the importance of a stable supply of food, energy and minerals from Australia to Japan.

Japan is Australia’s biggest export market. Japan’s imports from Australia stood at 325 billion yen ($3.03 billion) in the year ending March 31, 2007, while Japan’s exports to Australia
amounted to 146 billion yen, according to Japanese data.