N.Z., Australia concerned over Abe's comments on resuming whaling

New Zealand and Australia expressed concern Tuesday after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to boost efforts to resume whaling off Antarctica, despite a recent International Court of Justice ruling that found Japan's annual whale hunt to be commercial whaling disguised as scientific research.

"While it is not clear precisely what Prime Minister Abe is proposing in the short term, the fact that he has told a Parliamentary Committee that he wants to aim towards the resumption of commercial whaling is both unfortunate and unhelpful," New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said in a statement.

He noted that Abe's remarks came despite Japan's earlier pledge to study and abide by the ICJ ruling on March 31.

"As a country that places a high value on its good international citizenship, we hope and expect that Japan will continue to respect the ICJ decision," McCully said.

Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt expressed similar sentiments.

"We believe all parties should respect the outcome of the ICJ case," Hunt said in a statement.

Abe told the Diet committee on Monday that he seeks resumption of commercial whaling and intends to step up efforts to get understanding from the international community.

He cited a need to conduct whaling research in order to obtain scientific data for the management of whale resources.

Abe also lamented on the misunderstanding between Japan and some other countries, saying religious services were held after every whaling season. "It is regrettable that this part of Japanese culture is not understood," he said.

Australia, backed by New Zealand, launched a case at the ICJ in 2010.

The court ruled that Japan's whaling program in Antarctic waters is not in accordance with its obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

The decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) laid down clear guidelines for any research whaling activities in the future.

Japan's official position, as stated before the ICJ, is that it "wishes to resume commercial whaling based on science in a sustainable manner."

It says that as long as commercial whaling is conducted in a sustainable manner and in accordance with agreements about humane killing, it is a "legitimate use of marine living resources."