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Take emotion out of whaling, Japan says

The Japanese government insists that emotion must be removed from the whaling debate if the differences between Australia and Japan over the contentious issue are to be resolved.

But it also believes the two nations are a long way from finding any solution to the impasse.

Speaking to The Canberra Times in Tokyo, Japan's Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Joe Nakano, said Australians were too emotional about the whaling issue, which he suggested was encouraged by the Australian media.

''I think the first step for both sides is we have to be fair,'' Mr Nakano said.

''The media has a very important role and should report fair. What is the real issue? And what is the difference between the two countries? The first point is not to be emotional.''

Mr Nakano said only through accepting that Japan is conducting scientific research on whales in the Southern Ocean can the debate move forward.

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But he believed the dispute will not affect the overall good relationship between Australia and Japan.

The Australian government is opposed to the hunting of whales in Antarctic waters and is seeking an international legal ruling against Japan's so-called scientific whaling.

The Australian people widely condemn the annual whale hunt, which is currently under way.

But Mr Nakano said Japanese people were not emotional about the debate and most were not even aware of the details of the issue.

He said both sides had to listen more to the other.

''We have to try to understand what are the differences and what is the problem,'' he said.

''And we have to try to find a way based on a calm environment and based on the scientific.

''If we try to solve the issues that way hopefully we can do it.''

But a compromise is not in sight.

''I think not yet,'' Mr Nakano said.

''The reporting sometimes is not acceptable to Japan and the Japanese people.''

Mr Nakano insisted that vigorous anti-whaling campaigner Sea Shepherd must be treated as separate from the wider whaling debate.

He said the environment group's tactics are violent and unacceptable.

Diplomacy will not work with the group.

''Sea Shepherd is a different issue,'' Mr Nakano said.

''They can raise their voice but it doesn't mean they can act violently and sabotage.

''I believe that in Japan and Australia, we share the idea of maritime peace and security. So I think we have to see the whaling issue separate from the Sea Shepherd issue.''