Whaling looms large as Japan PM meets NZ leaders
STACEY KIRK AND LAURA WALTERS
Labour leader David Cunliffe said New Zealand would have to increase "diplomatic pressure" on Japan if it resumed scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Cunliffe this afternoon during his visit to Auckland, following bilateral negotiations with Prime Minister John Key this morning.
Earlier today Abe avoided answering whether his country would resume whaling in the Southern Ocean.
Abe did not answer directly when questioned this morning following talks with Key.
He merely said Japan would abide by the International Court of Justice ruling on its whaling programme.
In March, the ICJ ruled Japan's government-subsidised whaling programme in the Southern Ocean was for commercial purposes, rather than scientific purposes as Japan had claimed.
The ICJ laid down "clear guidelines" for any future whaling and what could be considered scientific.
This morning Key said Japan was reviewing how it could resume scientific whaling in accordance with the ICJ ruling.
Cunliffe said Labour as a party and New Zealanders generally had a clear position against whaling in the Southern Ocean.
"It is our position that the Southern Ocean should be free of whaling."
Cunliffe said it was important to see exactly what the ICJ and International Whaling Commission's criteria were for scientific whaling and what Japan was proposing before New Zealand could make any decisions about intervention.
"We're a long way from sending a frigate to the Southern Ocean."
However, if Japan did resume scientific whaling, New Zealand would have to use diplomatic pressure to help end the practice, Cunliffe said.
Key said during this morning's discussions he expressed to Abe that New Zealanders had a "real concern" about whaling.
"New Zealand's view is there's no place for whaling scientific or otherwise."
However, there was a difference in viewpoint between the two countries when it came to whaling, Key said.
Cunliffe and Abe also discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Cunliffe said he stressed the importance of a "high-quality " agreement in order for the TPP to pass with broad support in the New Zealand parliament.
The Labour Party still reserved its position on the TPP pending seeing the details of the draft, he said.
Cunliffe said Labour's position would in "significant measure" depend on what Japan agreed to in terms of organisation of primary production.
Overall, the talks were "very positive", Cunliffe said.
Earlier today Key said New Zealand and Japan were making progress when it came to TPP negotiations but there was still a long way to go.
Key said he was "very straight forward" about what New Zealand's position was and Abe understood what was required to reach an agreement.
"It wouldn't be possible for New Zealand to sign up to TPP if it excluded agriculture or excluded the bulk of agriculture."
Japan has so far refused to open its rice, beef and pork, dairy and sugar sectors - politically powerful sectors which Abe has vowed to defend.
The Japanese Prime Minister was this afternoon on his way to Christchurch to pay his respects to the 28 Japanese citizens killed in the 2011 Canterbury quake.
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