The Jan. 15 editorial, “Wars over whaling,” highlights the damage that scientific whaling has done to Japan’s image — a self-defeating outcome for a country largely reliant on “soft power” to pursue foreign policy objectives. As one of those objectives is access to food supplies, Tokyo’s position has become incongruous.
Japan does not want to cease whaling partly — perhaps ultimately — because of concerns about future international action curtailing its rights to other food sources in the sea. Nor does it view the current impasse as tenable the more its commitment to sustainability is questioned.
Therefore, Tokyo should resume commercial-scale harvesting to kick-start a new agenda on food security. An about-face would provide Japan the standing to engage with trading partners on the question of sustainable supply and perhaps facilitate a modus vivendi on other outstanding issues affecting food security.
A key partner in this would be Australia. Both countries are edging toward an economic partnership agreement, with increased investment opportunities in aquaculture and other food production industries. But in the context of a renewed consensus on whaling, sustainability and food security, there may be sufficient grounds for Australia to provide an assurance of supply as part of any such agreement. This could provide a model for possible free trade negotiations with Washington, and foreshadow a place for food security in future multilateral trade rules in the Asia-Pacific, for instance, through a market-based mechanism linking quotas on product-specific supplies to yearly sufficiency levels.
The first step will be Japan’s recognition that food security cannot be divorced from increasingly pressing international issues and that what is necessary is a pragmatic agenda pursued across governments — not an approach beholden to the narrow interests of narrow constituencies.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.