The New Zealand government has summoned a top Japanese diplomat in the country to answer questions regarding the arrival of a Japanese whaling fleet in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully criticised Japan's whaling activities as "deeply disrespectful" and offensive.
Mr McCully said he was advised that the Japanese whaling ship Shonan Maru 2 was following the anti-whaling ship Sea Shepherd in New Zealand's EEZ. He gave instructions to the Kiwi embassy officials in Tokyo to send a message to Japan that breaching the EEZ will not be welcomed.
The Japanese whaling fleet had failed to heed New Zealand's warning and continued to chase the Steve Irwin, a Sea Shepherd vessel, inside the economic zone. The ship did not go inside the territorial waters of New Zealand.
Mr McCully admitted that the breach of New Zealand's EEZ had no legal implication to Japan, it was still viewed as a clear sign of disrespect. He said the waters within the EEZ were not considered territorial waters.
The Foreign Affairs Minister has vowed to take more steps to ensure that the Japanese government knows how its whaling ship has caused deep offence to the country.
According to Sea Shepherd Australia, Yushin Maru No. 3, a Japanese whaling ship was expected in the waters of the Australian Whale Sanctuary on Feb 8. It the same harpoon ship responsible for reportedly hitting The Bob Barker, one of the Sea Shepherd ships.
The Shanan Maru No. 2, a Japanese government security ship, also headed for New Zealand to chase The Steve Irwin. The Japanese security vessel was accused of sinking the New Zealand ship Ady Gil in 2010.
On Jan 10, the Yushin Maru No. 3 stopped outside of Australian waters after the Sea Shepherd launched a formal protest to Australia's Environment Minister Greg Hunt. The anti-whaling organisation has requested Hunt to intervene in the Japanese ship's whaling activities.
New Zealand's Green party had called on the government to protest the breach instead of just condemning it. According to reports, Greens spokesperson Gareth Hughes said New Zealand should file a formal complaint or a diplomatic protest in Tokyo. Mr Hughes added that a strong diplomatic message should be sent rather than just expressing disappointment with Japan's whaling activities.