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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 January 2008, 04:11 GMT
Japanese premier defends whaling
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (file image)
Mr Fukuda said he wanted a less emotional debate
Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has defended the country's annual whale hunt in the oceans around Antarctica.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Fukuda said he was aware of opposition to what Japan calls its "scientific whaling", but said Japan was not breaking any laws.

The whaling fleet plans to kill about 1,000 whales in this year's cull.

It is being shadowed by environmental activists intent on causing disruption and drawing attention to the whalers' activities.

Recently two activists boarded one of the vessels, forcing the Japanese to abandon their hunt for several days while they worked out how to get the activists off their ship.

'Emotional debate'

The prime minister acknowledged there was opposition to Japan's annual hunt but he appealed to the anti-whaling nations to deal with the issue calmly.

Japanese processing ship Nisshin Maru (file image)
The Japanese fleet is mid-way through its annual hunt

"I don't think it is right for the discussions to turn emotional, especially with the recent violent act against the Japanese research vessel," he said.

"Should that lead to more emotionally-charged debate, then I feel that would be very unfortunate."

"So we should try to continue with our efforts to try to explain that we are engaged in this research whaling activity from a scientific viewpoint."

Speaking at the Davos conference in Switzerland, a spokesman for the environmental group Greenpeace said it was optimistic the Japanese would eventually stop hunting whales in the waters off Antarctica.

The spokesman claimed the publicity it and other groups had drawn to the hunt had started a debate about the rights and wrongs of whaling in Japan.

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