A trans-Tasman bid to outlaw scientific whaling by Japan has closed with the Asian power warning a decision against it could force it to quit the International Whaling Commission.
Deputy foreign minister Koji Tsuruoka said Japan relied on the International Court of Justice to find that it had obeyed the law by halting commercial whaling, and only conducting scientific whaling within the rules of the IWC treaty.
"What would happen to stable multilateral frameworks when such assurances disappear?" Tsuruoka said. "When one morning suddenly you find your state bound by the policy of the majority and the only way out is to leave such an organisation?
"Japan, a country that places importance on the rule of law, trusts that the outcome of this case will uphold stable multilateralism."
Tsuruoka's closing words to the ICJ on Tuesday followed a claim from Japanese counsel Payam Akhavan that the politicisation of science, sacrificing of culture and disregarding of international law meant that soon there might be no whaling nations at the IWC.
However Akhavan also underscored Japan's compliance with the rule of law, and observers said Japan's threats to leave the IWC had been made repeatedly in the past.
Tsuruoka was closing four weeks of hearings at the ICJ in The Hague in which Australia asked the court to find that Japan's whaling program was not scientific research, but disguised commercial whaling.
Australia is asking the court to ban the hunt, under which Japan has been whaling in the Antarctic for 26 years, ever since the global moratorium commercial whaling came into force.
"Whaling for purposes of scientific research by Japan is not commercial whaling in disguise," Tsuruoka said. "The objective of the program is to obtain scientific information on the basis of which Japan might be able to ask for the moratorium to be lifted."
New Zealand intervened in the case earlier this month, with Attorney General Chris Finlayson arguing that global whaling treaty's purpose was not the protection of commercial whaling.
Finlayson told the ICJ the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was intended to be for the conservation and development of whale stocks.
- Fairfax Media