Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which halts Japan's whaling programme, has met with resentment in Tokyo, but was welcomed in Australia and New Zealand as a vindication of their position.
The ICJ said that Japan had killed around 3,600 minke whales since 2005 under its Antarctic whaling programme, known as JARPA II. However, the latter's scientific output was limited, and Japan had not sufficiently justified the whaling quotas it had set.
Australia and New Zealand were happy about the decision, as both nations had led the court case starting in 2010.
Anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd was also delighted. "We've been saying for 10 years that this is an illegal whale hunt and the court has proven that case," it said in a statement.
In Japan, the authorities said they would comply with the judgement, but were "deeply disappointed".
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said this morning that Tokyo would consider its response "after carefully examining the contents of the ruling".
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi noted that whale meat was "an important source of food, and the government's position to use it based on scientific facts has not changed".
Whaling has long divided the international community.
Tokyo signed the 1986 moratorium on whaling, but had continued whaling under provisions that allowed for "scientific research".
Unlike Japan, Norway and Iceland refused to sign the agreement and will continue commercial whaling.
The moratorium excludes subsistence whaling among indigenous groups, although catch limits are set.
Tokyo now has to choose whether to stop whaling altogether, review its scientific programme to reduce the number of whales killed, or withdraw from the International Whaling Commission.