• Kyodo

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Canberra on Friday welcomed the International Court of Justice’s decision Thursday to schedule three weeks of public hearings in The Hague from June 26 on Australia’s case against Japan’s so-called research whaling.

“We will now have our day in court to establish, once and for all, that Japan’s whaling hunt is not for scientific purposes and is against international law,” Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, who will represent Australia at the hearings, said in a statement.

“Australia wants this slaughter to end,” he added.

The fixing of the date sets up the final stage in the case brought by Australia against Japan on May 31, 2010. Since then, the ICJ has received written submissions from both parties.

The upcoming oral hearings are the last phase of legal proceedings before the court makes its decision on the legality of Japan’s whaling, which Dreyfus said will hopefully be delivered before the start of Japan’s next whaling season.

Australia is arguing that Japan’s continued pursuit of a large-scale whaling program is in breach of its obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling as well as its other international obligations for the preservation of marine mammals and the marine environment.

“Australia’s views on whaling are well known — we condemn all commercial whaling, including Japan’s so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Environment Minister Tony Burke said in the same statement.

“The Australian government’s decision to bring this legal action demonstrates our determination to end commercial whaling,” he said.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Australia’s whaling case does not undermine the relationship between Australia and Japan.

“Australia and Japan have agreed that our differences over whaling will not affect the strong bilateral relationship we share,” Carr said. “The International Court of Justice is the appropriate forum to resolve these differences in a calm and measured way.”

On April 7, Japan’s three-ship whaling fleet, led by the mother ship Nisshin Maru, returned to Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, after completing this season’s hunt in the Antarctic Ocean.

Damage was visible on the bow and other sections of the hull of the Nisshin Maru, which was involved in collisions with vessels of the antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The Fisheries Agency said the fleet caught a combined 103 southern minke whales this season, the smallest catch since the country started its “research whaling” in the Antarctic Ocean in 1987.

Critics say Japan’s research whaling is merely a cover for commercial whaling.

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