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Anti-Whaling Activists Attack Japanese Ship


Japanese officials say four crew members on board a Japanese whaling ship were injured Monday during a clash with an anti-whaling group. The attack occurred in Arctic waters. The incident comes as Japan's government lobbies new members of the International Whaling Commission to support Tokyo's push to overturn a moratorium on commercial whaling. Naomi Martig reports from Hong Kong.

Japan's foreign ministry says members of the American-based anti-whaling group, "Sea Shepherd," hurled bags of foul-smelling butyric acid onto a whaling ship off Antarctic waters. Four crew members were injured by the acid, which can cause irritation to the skin and eyes.

Speaking in Tokyo, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, condemned the attack.

Machimura says Tokyo's research on whaling is approved by an international treaty that grants the country a six-month period to hunt some 900 humpback and minke whales for research purposes.

The incident comes as officials in Tokyo are holding an international seminar for 12 new and potential members of the International Whaling Commission, including Laos, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia and Tanzania. Japan's foreign ministry is holding the meeting to seek support in lifting a 1986 ban on commercial whaling.

Junichi Sato is the ocean project leader for Greenpeace International's Japan office. He says Japan is buying the support of less developed nations with foreign aid.

"Japanese government is trying to influence those countries politics and policies so that they can join to the International Whaling Commission to support Japanese agenda on whaling."

Japan has denied the accusations, saying it wants the IWC to be transformed into an organization that monitors commercial hunts instead of simply banning them.

For years, Japan has been trying to get the International Whaling Commission to lift the ban. Norway and Iceland do not abide by the moratorium. What Japan calls its research whaling is controversial because meat from the catch - a delicacy in Japan - is sold commercially. Japanese officials deny profit is a goal.

Sato says Japan's refusal to end its hunts is hypocritical.

"Japanese government is keen to be environmentally friendly, but the whaling activity is simply damaging that image," Sato said.

Members of the International Whaling Commission are meeting in London, later this week to discuss ways to reform the commission.