Ever wonder why landlocked nations such as Mali, Mongolia and Laos with no tradition of whaling are members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC)? According to Jun Morikawa, the Japanese government sponsors the membership of third-world countries in the IWC to boost support for Japan’s pro-whaling initiatives. This vote-buying, however, has done little for Japan’s image.

Whaling has become Japan’s diplomatic scarlet letter, doing significant damage to the nation’s international standing while alienating some of its closest allies. No other single government policy provokes such international opprobrium, and it is puzzling why the government harpoons its own green credentials and undermines national interests over such a marginal issue, one that most Japanese have long stopped caring about. Since 1986, Japan has killed more than 12,000 whales in the name of its research-whaling program.

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