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Australia remains opposed to whaling but chides Sea Shepherd.

TOKYO, April 22 Kyodo

Visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard underlined her country's antiwhaling status Friday as she said Canberra has no intention of halting its legal action to permanently end Japan's whale hunts, but warned the conservation group Sea Shepherd against engaging in dangerous protest activities.

Gillard said at a press conference, ''We are opposed to commercial and so-called scientific whaling, and due to that opposition, we have initiated the proceedings...in the International Court of Justice and we do intend to continue with those proceedings.''

On the conduct of the anti-whaling group, whose ships dock in Australian ports and have been obstructing operations by Japan's whaling fleet, she said, ''We have consistently said that everyone needs to abide the rules of the sea, which are predominantly there for people's safety.''

Australia and Japan have been engaged in a legal battle at the international court since May last year when then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched legal action to stop Japanese whaling activities in Antarctic waters.

With regards to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Australian police searched their vessels in March after Tokyo demanded Canberra take measures to prevent the group from carrying out obstructionist activities.

Speaking at the Japan National Press Club, Gillard also showed Australia's eagerness to resume talks with Japan on signing a free trade agreement at an early date and said her country welcomes Japan's interest in the process of creating a trans-Pacific FTA.

''I am ambitious to say very substantial progress can be reported at the APEC meeting in Honolulu led by (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama,'' the Australian leader said on her prospects for future negotiations on the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Nine Asia-Pacific countries including Austria and the United States have been negotiating the high-level FTA with hope to conclude their talks in November, when the next summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum is held in Honolulu.

Japan had aimed to decide by around June whether to join the nine countries in the negotiations over the TPP, but the deadline was effectively put off as the government needs to concentrate on recovery efforts after the March 11 quake and tsunami.

Gillard also condemned North Korea for its ''unacceptable and aggressive conduct,'' apparently referring to Pyongyang's deadly shelling of a South Korean border island, uranium enrichment for its nuclear program and the sinking of South Korean warship.

On the resumption of six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the North, Gillard said, ''I understand that there is no point in having talks for talks' sake and North Korea does need to establish its own path for change in order for those talks to be able to strike meaningful agreements.''

The six-way dialogue involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have been stalled since December 2008.

Gillard is set to visit the coastal town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas worst affected by the twin disasters, on Saturday before winding up her four-day official visit to Japan. A 72-member Australian search and rescue team was dispatched to the town shortly after the calamity.

''One of the things I wanted to do by physically coming to Japan was to say through my personal presence that Australia is with you, with the Japanese people at this very difficult time,'' she said. ''I wanted to therefore personally take my greetings and expressions of goodwill to the most affected regions.''
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Apr 25, 2011
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