WASHINGTON – Washington will deny Japan access to fishing rights in U.S. waters based on recommendations by the commerce secretary, who judged Tokyo to be undermining global efforts to preserve whale populations, U.S. President Bill Clinton announced Wednesday.
“Strong international cooperation has allowed the recovery of many whale species once pushed to the brink of extinction. We must work to ensure that these protections are upheld,” Clinton said in a statement announcing the sanction.
Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta said earlier in the day that he recommended Clinton impose trade sanctions against Japan over its expanded whaling program.
Denying Japan fishing access to U.S. waters is one of three steps recommended by Mineta. Japanese ships have not operated in U.S. waters since 1988.
Clinton must decide within 60 days whether to accept the remaining two steps.
Mineta said the Japanese whaling program is undermining international conservation efforts, adding that Japan has no “reasonable scientific justification” to conduct research whaling that involves the slaughter of some 160 whales in the North Pacific this season.
“Putting it plainly, Japan is killing whales in the name of scientific research to satisfy a demand for whale meat in a few high-end restaurants and gourmet boutiques,” Mineta told a joint news conference with White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.
Based on the recommendation by Mineta, made under a U.S. legal provision known as the Pelly amendment, Clinton must report to Congress within 60 days on whether he will curb fishery imports from Japan.
He also must decide within the same period whether to ban exports to Japan of fishery products caught in U.S. waters by third countries.
The punitive step accepted immediately by Clinton — denying Japan access to fishing resources in U.S. waters — is based on a provision known as the Packwood-Magnuson amendment.
Four Japanese whaling vessels are now operating in the Northwestern Pacific under Japan’s expanded whaling program for this season, which calls for catching 10 sperm and 50 Bryde’s whales, in addition to 100 minke whales.
“We are deeply concerned that the real aim of this large hunt is to pave the way for an outright resumption of commercial whaling,” Mineta said.
To protest the Japanese whaling program, Washington announced a series of measures last month, including the cancellation of regular bilateral fisheries talks, a boycott of two environmental meetings in Japan and opposition to Japan’s hosting of an International Whaling Commission gathering next year.
Tokyo voices regret
Top government officials in Tokyo expressed regret Thursday over the decision by the United States to deny Japanese fishing rights in U.S. economic waters because of Japan’s contentious whaling program.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hidenao Nakagawa said Japan will urge Washington to restrain from imposing unilateral economic sanctions over the matter.
“It is highly regrettable that the U.S. has unilaterally begun a procedure based on its domestic laws . . . against our legitimate research whaling under the international treaty on whaling control,” Nakagawa told a regular news conference.
He said the issue must be discussed based on scientific logic, rather than emotion, within the International Whaling Commission.
“We are ready to talk with the U.S. at any time. We urge the U.S. to discuss it in a cool-headed manner based on international law,” he said.
But he added that the U.S. denial of Japan access to fishing rights in U.S. waters would have little impact because Japanese vessels do not operate there.
Nakagawa’s comments were echoed by Farm Minister Yoichi Tani, who issued a statement calling the U.S. move “unfair.”
Tani said Tokyo is ready to hold dialogue with Washington over the whaling issue and strongly urged the United States to begin talks under international rules.
Meanwhile, in Washington, a group of visiting Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers said Wednesday that Japan should not yield to U.S. pressure to roll back its expanded whaling program.
Speaking to Japanese reporters in Washington, Shunichi Suzuki, deputy head of an LDP group of prowhaling legislators, and Yasukazu Hamada, secretary general of the group, claimed Japan has decided to expand its whaling program because of the importance of collecting scientific data on whales.
The group is visiting the U.S. to brief U.S. government officials and Congress members on Japan’s position on whaling.
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