From: Rod McGuirk, Associated Press
Published July 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Officials Claim Japan Used Aid Promises to Win Support for Commercial Whaling

CANBERRA, Australia — Japan used promises of aid to buy support from impoverished nations for its bid to overturn an international ban on commercial whaling, former officials from three such countries have said.


The Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s "Four Corners" program was airing evidence Monday it said supports whaling opponents' suspicions that Tokyo has long had a strategy of offering aid for votes at the International Whaling Commission.


Japan has denied the charge. But past officials of Dominica, Grenada and the Solomon Islands have told the ABC that Japan bribed their governments.


"That is more than extortion," said Atherton Martin, who told the program he quit as Dominica's environment minister in 2000 in protest against Japanese interference.


"I don't think the international legal community has yet come up with a term to describe this blatant purchasing of small country governments by Japan," he said.


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"That has to go down in legal history as being the high end of public sector extortion," he added.


The Caribbean island nation had received almost US$45 million (euro37 million) in Japanese aid in the form of fish processing plants since it joined the IWC, the ABC reported.


The ABC said it had authenticated a Grenada government letter that said Japan provided money specifically to pay for its IWC fees.


That Caribbean nation's IMC commissioner from 1997 to 1999, Michael Baptiste, said Grenada supported whaling because of Japanese aid to its fishing industry.


"Japan gives assistance to Grenada to help develop their fishing (industry)," Baptiste told "Four Corners." "That would be one of the reasons that we would vote (to support whaling)."


Baptiste said his expenses were paid to attend IWC meetings but he did not know if the cash came from the Japanese government.


Two former Solomon Islands IWC commissioners, Albert Wata and Nelson Kile, said Japan paid the South Pacific nation's IWC fees as well as air fares and expenses for delegates to attend IWC meetings.


The ABC said Japan had been buying the Solomons' loyalty for more than 30 years with aid focused on the fishing industry.


In return, Japan wanted cheap access to tuna in the Solomons' waters as well as IWC support, the ABC said.


The Solomons supported Japan's bid to resume commercial whaling at an IWC forum last month, breaking a pledge of support to Australia, which opposes whaling and is also an aid donor.


The motion to resume commercial whaling after a two decade ban was defeated.


The leader of the Japanese delegation at the IWC forum in South Korea last month, Joji Morishita, said Japan had not paid the Solomons delegation and said vote-buying was wrong.


"I keep saying that the politicization of this organization should be stopped and all the countries coming here should have a real interest in this issue and should come on their own help to this organization," he told the ABC in Ulsan, South Korea.


Source: Associated Press


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