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SYDNEY (Kyodo) Australian diplomats said in January last year that Japan’s whaling fleet was not at fault for a crash that disabled the Ady Gil vessel belonging to the Sea Shepherd antiwhaling group in Antarctic waters that month, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Saturday.

The newspaper, citing U.S. documents released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, said the diplomats told the U.S. Embassy in Canberra that the Japanese side would “come away clean” in any investigation of the collision.

But the U.S. Embassy, in its cable to Washington, said such a view would be “hard to swallow” for Australians, as “public outcry over the incident has been heavily one-sided and stoked by the opposition,” and people were “already frustrated” that the government of then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was unable to stop Japan’s Antarctic whaling.

Last May, the Australian government announced that its probe into the maritime incident could not clarify which side was to blame.

On Jan. 6, 2010, a patrol vessel with the whaling fleet collided with the protest ship Ady Gil, which later sank.

The U.S. Embassy said in the cable, sent after discussions with Australian diplomats, the videos suggest that the “Ady Gil stopped or slowed significantly in the path of the Japanese whaling vessel” and the “Japanese vessel’s actions could be consistent with trying to avoid a collision.”

The May report, however, said, “On the basis of the available evidence, (the) Australian Maritime Safety Authority has been unable to determine whether either vessel took any action intended to cause a collision.”

After the January incident, the two sides had different accounts. Paul Watson, head of Sea Shepherd, claimed the Shonan Maru No. 2, the vessel sent by Japan to ensure the security of its whaling fleet, deliberately rammed the Ady Gil and “sheared the bow right off.” The Japanese Fisheries Agency blamed the collision on Sea Shepherd.

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