New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Tuesday it "would be good" to receive an apology from the Japanese government following an incursion into the country's exclusive economic zone by Japanese whalers in the Southern Antarctic Ocean.
Speaking to reporters at Parliament, Key said his government had taken unusual steps in dealing with the situation, after Foreign Minister Murray McCully instructed his ministry to express what McCully called their "deep disappointment" to Japanese Ambassador Yasuaki Nogawa on Monday.
"I don't know that we'll get an apology," Key said in a diplomatic tone.
"We will see what happens from here and what other things occur, but whether there's an apology, let's wait and see," he added.
The Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru No. 2 breached the New Zealand EEZ in recent days while giving chase to an anti-whaling vessel belonging to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The New Zealand government said the Japanese vessel travelled some distance inside the zone but did not venture into New Zealand's territorial waters.
The seas within the EEZ are not part of New Zealand's territorial waters, so the government has no legal means of excluding vessels from entering the area.
Japan's annual whale hunt began in December and typically ends in early March. Japan argues its whaling is conducted lawfully on the basis of Article 8 of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which permits whaling for scientific research.
Sea Shepherd is conducting its 10th campaign to prevent the Japanese whaling, which it regards as unlawful.