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Media release

22 December 2007

Australia welcomes suspension of humpback whaling by Japan

Australia welcomes the announcement by Japan that it will suspend its plans to kill humpback whales in the Southern Ocean this season.

"While this is a welcome move, we will continue to urge Japan to bring an end to its lethal so-called 'scientific whaling' program," said Mr Smith.

"The Australian Government strongly believes that there is no credible justification for the hunting of any whales and will vigorously pursue its efforts, announced earlier this week, to see an end to whaling by Japan."

While welcoming the announcement with respect to humpback whales, Australia last night led a formal diplomatic protest - known as a demarche - in Tokyo to mark the start of Japan's 2007-08 whaling season.

The protest was presented by Australia's Ambassador to Japan at 7pm Tokyo time (9pm Canberra time). The 31 participants who joined the formal diplomatic protest made it the largest international protest of this kind against Japan's whaling program.

"The strength of international support for the diplomatic protest led by Australia shows that there is strong international concern over Japan's whaling program," Mr Smith said.

"The formal diplomatic protest sends a very powerful signal to the Government of Japan."

The countries who joined Australia's lead in voicing opposition to Japan's whaling program were: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The United Kingdom and Uruguay. The European Commission also participated in the protest.

Last night, Mr Smith spoke to Japan's Foreign Minister Koumura. The Ministers affirmed their intention to strengthen bilateral relations and co-operation between the two countries. Mr Smith welcomed Japan's decision to suspend killing humpback whales and conveyed to Foreign Minister Koumura the strong opposition of the Australian Government and the Australian people to whaling. Mr Smith noted that while Australia and Japan disagree about this issue, it would not affect the continuing strength of the warm and productive relationship between Australia and Japan.

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