Australia-Japan diplomatic crisis brewing over activists held on board whaling ship

In a press conference Sunday afternoon Federal Attorney General Nicola Roxon said that Government officials are in talks with Japanese authorities over the fate of the 3 Australians now held captive on the Japanese whaling security vessel Shonan Maru No2. She said the Government's primary concern was the safety of the three men.

On Sunday morning Forest Rescue activists boarded the Japanese whaling ship in solidarity with Sea Shepherd.

"We are in diplomatic discussions, we hope there will be an opportunity to ensure their safety and well being soon," said Nicola Roxon.

Roxon said it was possible the men may be taken to Japan, where they could face penalties under Japanese law.

"We hope that it won't come to that but you do have to look at the past to know that it is likely these three Australians may be taken back to Japan," she said.

Currently whaling boats are banned from Australian ports, with whaling being an illegal activity under Australian law. Whaling vessels that visited risk impoundment and the Captain charged under a 2008 civil injunction in a case brought by Humane Society International.

Roxon said the Government could make an exception for the Shonan Maru. "Because it is a boat that appears to be assisting whaling boats although not a whaling vessel itself," she said. "At this stage the boat hasn't sought to come into port. We may of course in coming days want to have discussions to do just that."

The two Greens Senators from Western Australia - Rachel Siewert and Scott Ludlum - have called on the Prime Minister to take immediate action to diffuse the situation.

"The Prime Minister should take immediate action to prevent any escalation of tensions around this standoff. It would be unacceptable for the protesters to be held captive on board as the ship returns to Japan or the Southern Ocean. " said Senator Siewert in a media release.

"The protesters have acted as a direct result of our own Government's failure to take the necessary steps to end illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean. They believed there was no alternative than to board the vessel overnight to prevent it continuing it's mission," continued Senator Siewert.

Senator Siewert called for the Shonan Maru 2 to be ordered into port to release the protesters.

The Steve Irwin is heading south towards Antarctica with the Shonan Maru 2 continuing to shadow the Sea Shepherd flagship with the 3 Australians on board.


International coverage of Australia's shame, this is what they are saying in Scotland:

"Australian Dollars donated to Japan for tsunami relief fund were spent on an armed vessel which then invaded Australian territorial waters, captured 3 Australian protestors and is now steaming away into international waters with those 3 Australian citizens held prisoner. Did we waken up in some weird parallel universe where any of that makes any kind of sense?"

US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that the Australian government was willing to accept a compromise on whaling with Japan as recently as February 2010.

ABC report

Wikileaks revealed the primary compromise was between the US and Japan, but senior Australian diplomats and bureacrats were pushing the compromise to the Australian Government. By the reading of the cables Environment Minister Garrett stood his ground and refused to heed the advice of the Australian bureacrats.

See Wikileaks: Garrett stood his ground on whaling compromise, Sea Shepherd tax status targeted from 4 Jan 2011