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Cablegate: Japanese Whaling Vessel Collision with Sea Sheperd Boat --

VZCZCXRO2447
RR RUEHPT
DE RUEHWL #0005 0071246
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 071246Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0293
INFO RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBN/AMCONSUL MELBOURNE 0011
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0076
RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY 0039
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0008
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH 0005
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
RULSJGA/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000005

SIPDIS
AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PASS TO AMCONSUL AUCKLAND

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/08
TAGS: EFIS SENV EWWT NZ JA AS
SUBJECT: Japanese Whaling Vessel Collision With Sea Sheperd Boat --
New Zealand's Perspective

REF: CANBERRA 000014

CLASSIFIED BY: Peter G. Tinsley, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission,
State, Political/Economic Affairs; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (SBU) On January 7, Econoff spoke with Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Environmental Division Deputy Director
Carol Schwalger, who is the chief point of contact on the January 6
collision between a Japanese whaling vessel and the Ady Gil, a boat
owned by the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society anti-whaling group.
Schwalger said that the New Zealand Government (GNZ) is not making
any judgment as to who was at fault for the collision, regardless
of the public accusations and finger pointing in the press that
both sides in the incident are currently engaged in. Since the Ady
Gil is a New Zealand flagged vessel, the New Zealand Government has
undertaken a preliminary assessment and investigation before
deciding on next steps. Schwalger noted that MFAT has had an
exchange with Japan regarding the matter, and Japan has promised to
do a full investigation. According to MFAT's preliminary judgment,
it is not clear which party is at fault. Schwalger added that the
New Zealand Government is not under the same public pressure to
respond as the Australian Government since the whaling issue is a
"much hotter" issue there. She did note, however, that depending
how the investigation goes, there could be "diplomatic
consequences."

2. (SBU) During a January 7 interview on Radio NZ - the national
radio station - Foreign Minister Murray McCully reiterated New
Zealand's opposition to Japanese whaling operations in Antarctic
waters but called on all parties to "put a greater premium on life,
in such a harsh environment." He added that Maritime New Zealand
was conducting the preliminary assessment in close cooperation with
Australian maritime authorities (Note: The collision took place in
an area where Australia is responsible for maritime search and
rescue operations. End Note). McCully said that the GNZ would
decide on appropriate next steps following completion of the
preliminary assessment. In the interim, McCully noted, he would be
taking the matter up with the Japanese on January 7 and, "despite
our strongly differing views on the whaling issue, that we do work
constructively with the Japanese authorities, because we have
issues of safety and welfare at stake, and I've found that the
Japanese Government and New Zealand Government can work together,
despite our differences over the whaling policy issue."

3. (C) Comment: The Government of New Zealand's measured
response and unwillingness to rush to assign blame for the
collision between a Japanese whaling vessel and the New
Zealand-flagged Ady Gil are in vivid contrast to the more
sensationalistic coverage of the incident in the New Zealand press.
Both sides are using the press to take their case to the court of
public opinion and assign blame for the incident to the other
party. While the whaling issue may not resonate as strongly with
Kiwis as it does with Australians, most Kiwis support their
Government's strong opposition to Japanese whaling in Antarctic
waters. Whether that will sway public opinion against the Japanese
on this particular incident remains to be seen. In the mean time,
the Japanese Government-backed Institute of Cetacean Research has
made New Zealander Glenn Inwood its spokesman on this issue and he
has been vigorously defending the actions of the Japanese vessel,
the Shonan Maru 2, in the New Zealand print and broadcast media.
End Comment.
CLARKE

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