The Japanese government said Friday it will aim to resume its whaling in the Antarctic from next fiscal year despite a U.N. court ordering Tokyo last month to halt its program there, igniting criticism from the international community.
Tokyo has announced it will not conduct whaling in the Antarctic this fiscal year, which started April 1, under the current program, abiding by the March 31 International Court of Justice ruling. But the government said it will submit a new whaling program to the International Whaling Commission by this fall.
"We have come to the conclusion (to continue whaling) after carefully examining the ruling," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.
Japan's decision "reflects what the (ICJ's) judgment pointed out, and we would like to sincerely explain that to each country," he added.
Japan's eventual goal is to resume commercial whaling. What Tokyo calls "research whaling" is aimed at collecting scientific data to prove that catching whales commercially would not dent sustainable use of the whale stocks.
The government also decided to continue its whaling in the Pacific Ocean this fiscal year, with whalers set to depart later this month.
In the Pacific Ocean, the government plans to reduce the number of whales caught in an attempt to win support from the international community.
In fiscal 2014, Tokyo will slash the figure to 210 whales from 380 caught last year, based on "recent statistical data," a farm ministry official said.
The official also said that purposes of so-called research whaling have been narrowed down.
Tokyo's decision to review the program comes as the ICJ ruling pointed out that sample sizes of whales taken by Japan were "not driven by strictly scientific considerations," saying the country's whaling violated a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
Although the ICJ ruling only applies to the Antarctic Sea, Tokyo was considering whether it should also stop whaling in the Pacific, given strong criticism from antiwhaling countries such as Australia and the United States.
Japanese whalers are expected to leave a port in northeastern Japan on April 26 to conduct whaling in the Pacific Ocean off the Japanese coast. The departure had been initially planned for Tuesday next week but was put off due to prolonged discussion in the government over the matter.
In May 2010, Australia, one of the most vocal countries against whaling, lodged a case with the ICJ aimed at halting Japan's whaling in the Antarctic.
Contaminated Water Leaks at Fukushima Plant
Just over one ton of water contaminated with radioactive particulates leaked from one of the containment vessels at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said.
According to TEPCO officials, the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, which is being used to remove radioactive substances from contaminated water, experiencing trouble, TBS reported Wednesday.
TEPCO officials told a news conference that workers discovered the water leak from a containment vessel being used to clean out tanks filled with water already processed by the ALPS system. However, radioactive substances were still present in the water in the tanks, which started to overflow, TBS reported.
According to officials, the leaked water showed readings of 3.8 million becquerels per liter. Also, dangerous levels of radioactive cesium reading 9,300 becquerels were detected in the contaminated water.
TEPCO said none of the contaminated water was leaked outside of the building housing the storage tanks.
Japan-USA Deadlocked On TPP
Talks between the United States and Japan seen as vital to a broader regional trade pact had narrowed to a few critical areas and will resume again on Monday, officials of both countries said on Friday, as negotiators struggle to bridge gaps ahead of a summit between the countries’ leaders.
A U.S.-Japan agreement is critical to the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation grouping that would stretch from Asia to Latin America. The TPP is central to U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy of expanding America’s presence in Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for his part, has touted the TPP as a main element of his strategy to reform the world’s third largest economy and generate sustainable growth.
The two leaders are keen to show progress, if not clinch a deal, in time for their April 24 summit in Tokyo, but on Friday, after a 20-hour negotiating session, a deal remained elusive, a senior U.S. administration official said.
Negotiators are down to a relatively limited set of outstanding issues, but considerable differences separate the two sides, the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Sticking points from the U.S. perspective revolve in equal measure around access to Japan’s markets for agricultural products as well as Japanese regulations that serve to block automotive imports, the official said.
Discussions will continue in the days and weeks ahead, but there is no particular deadline for concluding the talks, the official added. Momentum behind the talks need not stall because negotiators have not struck a deal ahead of Obama’s visit to Japan, the official said.
Japan’s Economy Minister Akira Amari echoed the U.S. official’s assessment.
“We still have big differences,” he told reporters in Washington after another round of talks with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, according to Kyodo news agency.
But “the gaps are getting smaller,” Amari was reported as saying before he left for Japan. Late on Thursday, he had said talks were at a “stalemate”.
USTR confirmed talks would resume between U.S. Acting Deputy United States Trade Representative Wendy Cutler and Japanese Deputy Chief Negotiator Hiroshi Oe in Tokyo on Monday.
The United States wants Japan to open its rice, beef and pork, dairy, and sugar markets - politically powerful sectors that Abe has vowed to defend. Japan wants a timetable on U.S. promises to drop tariffs of 2.5% on imports of passenger cars and 25% on light trucks.
Japanese media have reported that the United States, which has been pushing Japan to scrap its tariffs, is willing to let Japan keep import levies on rice, wheat and sugar while it will create a mechanism to boost its imports of U.S. rice.
Gaps remain over the size of cuts in tariffs on beef and over pork as well, the media said.
Japanese officials have been hoping that a two-way trade deal with Australia clinched this month, which allowed it to keep reduced tariffs on beef, would pressure the United States to make similar concessions.
Some experts say U.S. negotiators are at a disadvantage because the White House does not have authority to fast track agreements through Congress, given opposition by senior Democrats to a bill laying the groundwork for a yes-or-no vote by lawmakers.