Japan's controversial whaling program and its stubborn refusal to lower tariffs during negotiations for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal were top of the agenda between the leaders of New Zealand and Japan in Auckland Monday.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key reiterated his country's opposition to whaling during a one-day visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Key said he thought Japan was considering options to resume whaling in a way that met with the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICJ), which declared in March that Japan's whaling program was clearly commercial and failed to abide by the conditions required for scientific research.
"I certainly expressed the real concern that New Zealanders have about whaling and the effect of the ICJ decision," Key said in a televised press conference during Abe's visit.
"The very strong position is that they want to see the end of all whaling, scientific or otherwise."
Abe said through an interpreter that the ICJ decision was disappointing, but Japan would abide by the rule of law.
Australia, in a case to the ICJ supported by New Zealand, successfully argued for an end to the issue of whaling permits for Japan's whaling program in the Southern Ocean, saying it was inconsistent with provisions for a research program under the international Whaling Convention.
Radio New Zealand reported that Key also said while Japan had been reluctant to open its market fully, New Zealand continued to push for open access to Japan's markets for farmers.
Japan was embarking upon a series of reforms to open up its economy and the TPP was part of that, said Key.
"We can understand that these things take time. We can show patience in terms of the pathway, but in the end New Zealand needs a high quality deal which includes the elimination of tariffs," Key said in the report.
Abe also visited Christchurch on Monday to pay his respects to the 28 Japanese citizens who lost their lives in the Canterbury earthquake in February 2011.