Japan claims international protest will not make it stop whaling

Japan will continue its whale-hunting program inspite of mounting international protest, a fisheries official said Wednesday. The Fisheries Agency on Wednesday received a note protesting Japan's whaling activities, signed by 17 countries, said agency spokesman Hideki Moronoki. But this would not change Japan's stance on the issue that the country is entitled to catch whales under international whaling regulations according to Moronoki.

"We plan to continue with the research hunting," he said. Japan is expected to kill 935 minke whales in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary over the first four months of the year in what the country says are scientific research hunts.

In a copy of the diplomatic note sent to The Associated Press, signatories urge Japan "to join the international community, cease all its lethal scientific research on whales and assure the return of the vessels" currently hunting whales near Antarctica.

The note was also sent to Japan's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, according to Senior Cabinet Minister Jim Anderton of New Zealand, which announced Wednesday it had joined in the international protest.

Joining New Zealand are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, reports the AP.

D.M.