April 2, 2014 5:37 am JST

Australia not crowing about world court win on Japanese whaling

KAORI TAKAHASHI, Nikkei staff writer

When he visits Japan, Abbott will have little to gain from rocking the boat.

SYDNEY -- Mindful of bilateral relations amid key trade talks, the Australian government is speaking softly about its own victory in a United Nations court regarding Japanese whaling activity in the Antarctic.

     The International Court of Justice ruled Monday in favor of Australia, which had argued that Japan's program was in fact commercial whaling in disguise rather than scientific.

     The verdict was headline news for local media and Sea Shepherd, an anti-whaling organization. "The Whales Have Won!" the activist group proclaimed on its website.

     Attorney General George Brandis kept his remarks brief, stating that his government welcomed the court's decision.

     Prime Minister Tony Abbott is to visit Japan on Saturday. The two countries are in the final stages of negotiations on an economic partnership agreement, a pact Abbott sees as a top priority for Australia. Under this framework, Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb has been pushing Japan to lower tariffs on Australian beef.

     So to maintain friendly bilateral relations, key public officials are keeping their reactions to the whale ruling low-key.

     The verdict actually helps the opposition rather than Abbott, who in 2010 had criticized the then-ruling Australian Labor Party over its decision to file the lawsuit. Today, Labor leader Bill Shorten enthusiastically boasts that the court ruling proves the wisdom of his party.