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The BBC's Kana Fushimi in Tokyo
"For most, whale meat is considered a delicacy"
 real 28k

Kazuo Kodama from the Japanese Embassy
"There is no justification by the US Government"
 real 28k

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Trade sanctions could follow"
 real 56k

Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Japan condemns US anti-whaling move
A minke whale harpooned by a Japanese ship
A minke whale harpooned by a Japanese ship
Japan has condemned a US decision to ban Japanese fishing vessels from operating in American waters.

US President Bill Clinton announced the future fishing ban on Wednesday and threatened sanctions if Tokyo did not curtail its expanded hunt for whales.

The Japanese Agriculture Minister, Yoichi Tani, said the move was "deplorable" and contravened the international treaty on whaling.

"I strongly urge the United States not to impose sanctions," he said.

The US move followed Japan's decision in July to expand its hunt to include Bryde's and Sperm whales, which are protected under US law.

Whale meat restaurant in Tokyo
Japan has specialist whale meat restaurants

The hunt previously had been limited to minke whales.

Japan insists its whaling programme is conducted for scientific reasons only. But the meat - considered a delicacy in Japan - is sold to the public.

Mr Tani said Washington should not react emotionally, and called for calm talks based on international law.

A Japanese Government spokesman, Hidenao Nakagawa, said: "We are ready to discuss this at any time".

US Commerce Department officials acknowledged that for the moment the fishing ban on Japan would have only symbolic effect, since Washington for the last 12 years has refused to authorise fishing by foreign vessels in US waters.

President Clinton now has 60 days to consider whether to impose trade sanctions.

Warning

Japan has warned that it will take the matter to the World Trade Organisation if US sanctions go ahead.

An official at the Fisheries Agency even hinted that Japan could take retaliatory action, pointing out that Tokyo imports a vast number of fish products from the United States - far more than it exports.

Tokyo's reaction follows a long dispute over whaling between Japan and a number of non-whaling countries.

Japan kills more than 400 minke whales a year for what it describes as scientific research.

Japan recently announced its intention to hunt 10 sperm whales and 50 Bryde's whales, also for research purposes.

According to Japanese Fisheries Agency figures, Japan imported US$1.54bn of marine products from the US last year while its exports to the US in the same year totalled only $310.37m.

For most Japanese, whale meat is considered a delicacy, rather than an essential part of the Japanese diet.

At a meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Adelaide in July, Japan and Norway blocked an attempt to establish an ocean sanctuary to protect whale breeding grounds in the South Pacific.

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See also:

14 Sep 00 | Americas
Q&A: Japan-US whaling dispute
13 Sep 00 | Americas
US steps up threats to Japan
06 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Whaling ban stays - for now
03 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Minke whale numbers 'declining'
19 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan campaigns for whaling
04 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Whale sanctuary rejected
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