Australia 'disappointed' by Japan whaling, says PM in Tokyo

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said "good friends need to be honest", when asked about whaling differences at the start of his official visit

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull has said he is "very disappointed" by Japan's decision to resume Antarctic whaling.

He made the comments as he began a brief visit to Tokyo, his first since becoming leader in September.

Mr Turnbull later met Japan's PM Shinzo Abe - he has vowed to raise the whaling issue with Mr Abe, though has said it will not damage their relationship.

The leaders are also expected to discuss trade, defence co-operation and South China Sea territorial disputes.

Japan suspended its Antarctic hunt last year following an International Court of Justice ruling against it.

But its whaling fleet set out for the Southern Ocean again earlier this month, with a target of 333 minke whales.

The decision to resume hunting sparked a formal protest by 33 countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

'Good friends'

Japan is Australia's second biggest trading partner after China, and as such Mr Turnbull will be keen to keep relations cordial, says the BBC's Jon Donnison in Sydney.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The latest hut will aim to take 333 minke whales - around a third of previous totals

But Mr Turnbull told a news conference in Tokyo that Australia was "very disappointed that Japan has resumed whaling in the Southern Ocean".

As "good friends" the two countries "should be upfront and frank about our differences of opinion, put them on the table and deal with them," he added, and should not let them "erode the good will and the rest of the relationship".

Aside from addressing differences over whaling - an emotive subject in both countries' politics - Mr Turnbull is keen to use the trip to boost his own vision for an innovation-driven economy back home.

Image copyright Instagram: turnbullmalcolm
Image caption "He can talk, run, jump, hop, shake hands and pose for selfies!" Mr Turnbull meets Asimo the robot

Praising Japan's commitment to technological development, he made a trip to see Asimo, the humanoid robot designed by Honda, at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo.

He later posted a picture of him with the robot to Instagram.

"There has never been a better time to be investing in the friendship between Australia and Japan," Mr Turnbull told his audience. "A strong Japan is good for our region, as is a strong Australia," he said.

In their private conversations on Friday evening, Mr Abe and Mr Turnbull are also expected to discuss the South China Sea.

Neither country has territorial claims there, but both reject China's claims to almost the entire sea, at the expense of Australia and Japan's allies, and their own freedom of navigation there.

Mr Turnbull said both had "a vested interest in disputes being resolved peacefully, in accordance with international law", AFP reports.

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