WASHINGTON – A group of U.S. House of Representatives lawmakers said Friday it has introduced a nonbinding resolution calling on President Bill Clinton not to support Japan’s bid to gain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council unless it stops whaling.
Sixteen congressmen sponsored the resolution, which needs majority support to be adopted in the 435-seat chamber, amid increasing global criticism of Japan’s expanded whaling program.
“Japan’s continued defiance of the International Whaling Commission’s requests to halt its scientific whaling program undermines international efforts to conserve and protect the world’s whale populations,” the resolution says.
William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat who is a chief sponsor of the resolution, said in a statement, “Despite repeated protests from the United States and many other nations, the Japanese government recently proceeded with plans for scientific hunts of three protected species of whales in the North Pacific — hunts which kill more than 500 minke, sperm and Bryde’s whales each year.”
Japan officially ended commercial whaling in 1987 but has continued to hunt minke whales, purportedly for research purposes.
Under a two-year pilot program introduced this year, Japan has stepped up its whaling practices to include 50 Bryde’s whales, 10 sperm whales and 100 minke whales in the northwestern Pacific.
The program has drawn stinging criticism from environmental groups. Japan has maintained that the species have increased sufficiently to allow for the catches and that the expanded program is acceptable under the commission’s rules. Washington opposes the hunting of Bryde’s and sperm whales because it says the species are endangered and protected under U.S. law.
Early last month, U.S. Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta recommended Clinton impose trade sanctions against Japan over the whaling program.
Tokyo has said it might lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization if Washington takes punitive action.
Delahunt said he and a bipartisan group of colleagues as well as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have conveyed that the whale hunts could undermine Japan’s credibility in connection with a variety of international marine environmental agreements.
“In response, the Japanese government has turned a decidedly deaf ear and it is time to turn up the volume,” Delahunt said.
A spokesperson for Delahunt’s office could not confirm when the resolution will be voted on.
When asked if he thought majority support could be gained to pass the resolution, the spokesperson said, “We’ll see what happens.”
“The issue is not only whether commercial whaling has a place in the 21st century but also whether Japan can be trusted to fulfill its commitments to the letter and spirit of multilateral environmental agreements,” Delahunt said.
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