11 Mar 2008

Japan's Fisheries Agency denies it paid for delegates to attend whaling negotiations

11:18 am on 11 March 2008

Japan is denying it paid for delegates of small states to attend international whaling negotiations after the prime minister of Solomon Islands said he received an offer from Tokyo.

Japan has long faced accusations of vote-buying as a growing number of developing countries with little tradition of whaling enter the International Whaling Commission or IWC.

But Hideki Moronuki, the whaling chief at Japan's Fisheries Agency, says there is no truth to it.

He told the AFP news agency that Japan has never made any offer at all to pay costs.

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua said on Saturday that Japan had offered to pay for the country's delegates to attend the latest IWC meeting in London.

Dr Sikua said in a joint press conference with visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a strong whaling opponent, that he turned down the offer and that his country did not attend.

But Hideki Moronuki said Dr Sikua may have confused the London meet with a seminar last week in Tokyo.

Japan's foreign ministry, which organised the seminar, said the Solomon Islands was not even invited.

Japan is pushing for the sharply divided IWC to end its 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.