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New Zealand summons Japanese diplomat in whaling spat

New Zealand said on Monday it was "deeply annoyed" that a Japanese whaling ship had entered its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and had summoned a senior diplomat to complain about the incident.

WELLINGTON: New Zealand said on Monday it was "deeply annoyed" that a Japanese whaling ship had entered its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and had summoned a senior diplomat to complain about the incident.

Officials in Wellington called in the Japanese embassy's deputy head of mission on Friday to make clear their displeasure at the Shonan Maru 2's presence in the EEZ, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said.

He said at the time, the Japanese ship was pursuing the protest vessel Steve Irwin, operated by the environmental group Sea Shepherd, which runs a campaign every year aimed at disrupting Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.

"I did request that the ministry call in the most senior person from the Japanese embassy in Wellington on Friday to convey just how disappointed New Zealand was that a Japanese whaling vessel had come into New Zealand's exclusive economic zone," McCully told Radio New Zealand.

"We asked our people in Tokyo to pass on a similar message to the foreign ministry there."

The foreign ministry said the ship did not enter New Zealand's territorial waters, which extend 12 nautical miles from the coast, but did breach its EEZ, which covers from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore.

While the vessel was legally entitled to sail in the EEZ, the ministry said it had been made clear to Japanese officials before it entered the waters on Friday that it was not welcome.

In a statement released late Sunday, it called the decision to ignore New Zealand's wishes "unhelpful, disrespectful and short-sighted".

McCully said New Zealand, which is one of the strongest opponents of Japan's whaling programme, would consider further steps "to enable the Japanese to understand just how deeply annoying this is".

He did not specify what the steps might be, saying he was yet to clarify whether the incursion occurred with the blessing of the Japanese foreign ministry or was merely the fisheries agency "flexing its muscles ... without proper regard for the foreign policy consequences".

High-seas confrontations are common between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese, who hunt whales under a "scientific research" loophole in the moratorium on whaling.

In 2010, a collision involving the Shonan Maru 2 resulted in the sinking of Sea Shepherd's speedboat Ady Gil.

New Zealand's foreign ministry said that the ship "travelled for some distance inside the (EEZ) zone, but stayed well clear of New Zealand territorial waters". It did not say how long it was in the EEZ.

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