Clinton warns on whaling, but avoid sanctions


U.S. President Bill Clinton reminded Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Thursday about American objections to whaling, but did not threaten to retaliate by imposing economic sanctions, officials said.

Clinton and Mori met for 30 minutes after the close of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. They spent most of the time discussing their countries’ relations and dialogues with North Korea, but they briefly discussed the highly charged issue of whaling.

Clinton said the United States wants Japan to reduce its whaling. The Japanese call their whale hunts part of a scientific program, although critics say that is a false way to describe an industry set up to provide the Japanese with whale meat, which many consider a delicacy.

Expensive whale dishes served in Japanese restaurants come from animals killed by the Japanese whaling fleet, which is about to embark on its second hunt of the year in waters off Antarctica.

Washington has threatened to impose sanctions over the whaling, but Clinton didn’t discuss that while meeting with Mori, said Jack Pritchard, an official specializing in Asia at the U.S. National Security Council.

Japan and the United States are the world’s two richest economies.

“The president expressed his continued concern,” said Pritchard. “Our desire is to work with Japan to resolve an issue that is important to the United States and others. But they did not get into specifics of what could be done to resolve the issue. Clinton did not talk about sanctions,” said Pritchard.

Clinton also told Mori that Japan’s whale hunts weren’t worth harming important bilateral relations, a Japanese official told reporters. Mori responded that it is important for the world to decide what to do about whaling based on the collecting of scientific data, the official said on condition of anonymity.