Japan seeks to arrest anti-whaling activists
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese police have sought arrest warrants for three anti-whaling activists after their heated clashes with Tokyo's whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean last year, the government said on Monday.
"It's natural to seek an arrest warrant after determining that there was a crime," Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.
"No matter what you think about whaling, physical protests should be avoided."
Two Americans and a Briton from the hardline Sea Shepherd group are suspected of having obstructed Japan's whale hunt through protests such as jamming a ship's propeller with a rope, Kyodo news agency reported.
Tokyo's Metropolitan Police is looking to place the three on an international wanted list once the arrest warrants are obtained, Kyodo added.
Japan's whale hunts have come under growing pressure from environmental groups, who say it is cruel and violates a 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling.
Japan, which considers whaling to be a cultural tradition, says it only undertakes whaling for scientific research.
Protests last year against the whaling fleet outraged Japan, which called the activities "piratical, terrorist acts". Activists had poured acid on the deck of a whaling ship, slightly injuring two crew members.
Clashes took place again earlier this year, setting off a spate of diplomatic complaints between Japan and Australia, although the two countries agreed not to let the issue hurt ties.
Meat from the hunts, which under rules set by the International Whaling Commission must be sold for consumption, is available in Japanese supermarkets and restaurants, though appetite for what is now a delicacy is fading.
(Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by David Fox)