- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

Whale of an issue

Japanese Ambassador Shunji Yanai defended his country's decision to expand whale hunting when he was summoned to the State Department this week to hear U.S. threats of trade sanctions and boycotts of bilateral fisheries talks.

Undersecretary of State Alan Larson called Mr. Yanai to come to the department on Wednesday, the Japanese Embassy said in a statement.

The ambassador said the Japanese hunt whales for research purposes, a right established under the 1948 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

He also said the species covered by the program are not endangered.

Japan earlier this year adopted a plan to catch 10 sperm whales, 50 Bryde's whales and 100 minke whales in the northwestern Pacific.

The State Department noted that sperm and Bryde's whales remain protected under U.S. law.

"The United States remains strongly opposed to Japan's expanded lethal whaling program in the North Pacific," the department said in a statement.

"Sperm and Bryde's whales are protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act and sperm whales are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act."

The department added that the United States is "actively considering all other options" against Japan.

The Commerce Department is expected to decide this month whether to ask President Clinton to impose trade sanctions.

The department can recommend punitive measures against a country that threatens endangered marine species.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher yesterday said that "we are taking on Japan."

"We don't like the whaling practice," he said.

"And the international community has made clear in its resolutions that they don't like these whaling practices.

"And in light of that, we are not attending several meetings that have to do with the environment and science that were to be held in Japan, because we just don't think it's appropriate for us to go there."

The United States is boycotting a meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, that opened yesterday in Japan and runs through Tuesday.

Washington also plans to boycott a related meeting Sunday that is organized by the Japanese government.

The United States will also object to Japan acting as host for next year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

Serb office dispute

Ambassador William Montgomery expected complaints from Slobodan Milosevic when he opened a U.S. diplomatic office on Serbian affairs near the U.S. Embassy in Hungary.

But he was surprised to hear that the political opposition to the Yugoslav strongman is also upset.

Mr. Montgomery, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, opened the Serbian affairs office this week with no intention of influencing the Sept. 24 Yugoslav elections, he said in an interview with Reuters.

"This was under way for some time, and the decision to proceed was made before the Serbian elections were even called," he said.

The United States decided to open the office in neighboring Hungary after the U.S. Embassy in Yugoslavia was closed last year because of the NATO-led war to stop ethnic cleansing in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

"This office is not doing anything new or different than we have been doing until now," Mr. Montgomery said.

"Serbia is important for the region, and in the absence of our ability to have a presence in Serbia, then this seems like the next best thing."

However, the opening of the office has shaken Serbia's opposition.

Vojislav Kostunica, a candidate chosen by 15 opposition parties, has criticized the move as a "display of arrogance" by the United States.

Other political leaders fear that Mr. Milosevic, who is running for re-election, could use the opening of the U.S. office as a way to portray his opponents as puppets of the United States.

The office was opened to monitor and analyze political and economic developments in Serbia, which along with Montenegro is one of the two remaining republics in Yugoslavia.

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