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Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he's "very disappointed" at Tokyo's decision to resume whaling in the Antarctic Ocean. But he added that it won't hurt bilateral relations.
Japan's commercial whaling fleet set sail this month for the Antarctic after a one-year pause, sparking a formal protest from 33 countries, led by Australia and New Zealand.
"Australia is very disappointed that Japan has resumed whaling in the Southern Ocean this year," Turnbull told reporters in Tokyo. "We will, as good friends should, be upfront and frank about our differences of opinion."
The Japanese government said last month it planned to kill 333 minke whales for scientific research this season. The plan came despite an international moratorium and widespread opposition to the practice.
Despite protests, Japan resumed its annual Antarctic whale hunt which it claims is done for scientific research
Japan: whale hunt is for research
The whaling fleet's departure marked the end of a year-long hunting suspension prompted by a UN International Court of Justice ruling in 2014. The court had found that the annual hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as scientific research.
Australia took Japan before the court in 2010 to try to end the annual hunts. But Turnbull, who is in Tokyo on Friday for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on economic and defense issues, emphasized that differences over whaling would not damage ties between the countries.
"We recognize that is a point of difference of opinion," Turnbull said and noted that it's also important to "understand the Japanese position."
jar/sms (AP, AFP)