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Australian PM arrives in Japan
December 15, 2009
11:16 am
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rath
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(AFP) – 10 hours ago

TOKYO — Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd arrived in Japan on Tuesday on a one-day visit for talks on global nuclear arms reduction, climate change and other issues.

Rudd will meet with his Japanese counterpart Yukio Hatoyama as well as Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada later Tuesday as he makes a brief stopover on his way to UN climate change talks in Copenhagen.

His visit coincides with the release of a report from the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), set up by Rudd last year and co-sponsored by Australia and Japan.

ICNND co-chairmen Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi, both former foreign ministers of their countries, will hold a press briefing on the report.

Rudd has said he will also discuss with Hatoyama approaches to the climate summit, as well as security cooperation and economic matters.

While joining hands in a drive for arms reductions, the two nations have been at odds over Japan's "scientific whaling", which is now resuming in seas south of Australia.

Rudd last week threatened Japan with legal action if it fails to stop hunting whales.

Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada defended whaling and asked Australia to understand that the practice is part of its heritage.

Japan's whaling fleet left for its annual Southern Ocean hunt last month, using a loophole in an international moratorium that allows the creatures to be killed for research.

December 15, 2009
11:18 am
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rath
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KEVIN Rudd has renewed his threat to take Japan to the international courts to stop its annual whale hunt, despite having failed to deliver on identical threats for more than two years. The Prime Minister's outburst has sparked derision, with Tony Abbott accusing him of trashing Australia's reputation with hollow threats and a Japanese anti-whaling activist warning of a potential anti-Australian backlash in Japan.

Mr Rudd's threat came yesterday as he prepared for a meeting with Japan's recently elected Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, in Tokyo today.

Each summer a Japanese whaling fleet kills hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean. The Japanese claim the hunt is part of a scientific research program but take the whales back to Japan for sale in restaurants.

Since taking power in 2007, Mr Rudd has vowed to take action to end the hunt and last year sent an Australian Customs vessel to collect photographic evidence for a possible challenge in the international courts.

Despite the threats, Mr Rudd has taken no direct action, instead relying on diplomatic pressure. Yesterday Mr Rudd said his position had not changed. "We have always had profound reservations about so-called scientific whaling," the Prime Minister told Sky News.

"What we've done with the previous government of Japan and this current government is seek to resolve this matter diplomatically -- diplomatically and finding a way through.

"But I have said very clearly, if we don't find a way through there is one way to sort this out and that is through the appropriate international legal mechanisms."

Asked last night whether he would set a deadline for action, Mr Rudd said via a spokesman that the government had logged at least 25 diplomatic contacts on the issue. "Our patience is not endless."

Mr Abbott said he opposed whaling and did not believe Japan's claim that its whaling program was scientific research.

But the Opposition Leader said: "I don't think you should make threats that you don't carry out. It just brings Australia into disrepute. It embarrasses us before a country which is otherwise a very, very important country and a very good friend to Australia."

Greenpeace Japan policy adviser Junichi Sato warned that Mr Rudd's repeated threats risked a backlash in Japan.

"Inside Japan, the issue of whaling tends to be regarded as an Australia-versus-Japan argument, but in reality Japanese people do not necessarily support whaling," he said.

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