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Japan angry at anti-whaling activists

TOKYO, Feb 12 (AFP) - Japan expressed strong anger Friday at militant anti-whaling activists who have harassed its harpoon ships in Antarctic waters, after three of the whalers reported minor injuries this week.

"It's outrageous," said top government spokesman Hirofumi Hirano after the Japanese crew reported "acid-splash chemical injury" from rancid butter -- or butyric acid -- stink bombs that activists had hurled at them.

"Luckily those were minor injuries, but it is extremely regrettable," Hirano, the chief cabinet secretary, told reporters.

Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu said: "I am furiously angry."

The remarks came after activists of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society again clashed with Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean this week, trading water cannon jets with the whalers and using the stink bombs and a laser-like device.

The activists rejected the report that Japanese crew were injured.

"Claims by Japan that rotten butter caused injuries to sailors is bogus," the group said on its website. "Butyric acid is a foul-smelling substance but does not cause harm upon skin contact."

Captain Paul Watson was quoted as saying: "It was a very tense five-hour confrontation, but there were no collisions and no injuries."

Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research said that the Sea Shepherds' ships, the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, "repeatedly deployed wire ropes and used a launcher to fire butyric-acid projectiles against the Japanese vessels."

As a result, three sailors had become "victims of acid-splash chemical injury," said the institute, which operates Japan's whaling expeditions.

Commercial whaling has been banned worldwide since 1986, but Japan kills hundreds of the sea mammals a year in Antarctic waters in the name of scientific research. Japan does not hide the fact that the whale meat is later sold in shops and restaurants.

Last month, the Sea Shepherds' futuristic powerboat Ady Gil was sliced in two and sank after a collision with one of the Japanese ships, leading both Australia and New Zealand to call for restraint on all sides.

MySinchew 2010.02.12

 

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