Japan to insist on legitimacy of whaling program at int'l court

Japan will defend its whaling program in the Antarctic Ocean in upcoming international court hearings on Australia's case against Japan's so-called research whaling, the Japanese government said Tuesday.

Japan will insist at the International Court of Justice in The Hague that its whaling program is legitimate as it is aimed at scientific research purposes and therefore does not violate an international moratorium against commercial whaling as Australia claims, the government said.

The oral hearings, which will be held between June 26 and July 16, are the last phase in legal proceedings before the court makes its decision on the legality of Japan's whaling -- possibly by the end of this year.

Japan will not be able to hunt whales in Antarctic waters should the court decide against the country's whaling.

Australia brought the case against Japan in 2010, and the ICJ has since received written submissions from both parties.

New Zealand will also participate in the proceedings to state its opinion on the matter.

Australia argues that Japan's continued pursuit of a large-scale whaling program is a cover for commercial whaling and 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.