Thursday, 10 July 2014

Whaling rears its head briefly to unsettle Tony Abbott and Shinzo Abe

After a long day spent carefully avoiding any mention of whaling, the overt bonhomie between Tony Abbott and his prime ministerial counterpart, Shinzo Abe of Japan, flickered slightly when the issue was finally raised on Tuesday.

Abbott conceded that the countries “respectively differ” over the killing of whales but said that Australia’s friendship with Japan was “far, far bigger than our disagreement on one particular subject”.

The disagreement he was referring to, however, recently led to Australia hauling Japan before the International Court of Justice, leading to a ruling that Japan’s annual hunt in Antarctic waters was not, as it claimed, scientific and must end.

Abe similarly attempted to make warm noises in awkward circumstances, saying Japan would abide by the ICJ ruling but adding, tellingly, that the country would “engage in research of whaling in order to collect the indispensable scientific information in order to manage the whale resources”. Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson later approached Abe at a state dinner to press into his palm a letter which urged Japan to step away from whaling.

What Abe’s exact plan is for whales in the Southern Ocean remains hard to decipher. For the first time since 1946, there will be no whaling in the Southern Ocean this summer.

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