Japan's export titans often get their way with their government. Right now they want senior politicians to end their controversial visits to a Tokyo war memorial that also honors war criminals - the visits are bad for business in China. But they should add this request: Don't overturn a ban on commercial whaling.
Japan has spent heavily to influence poor countries that are members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). It just announced a fresh $410 million aid package to South Pacific nations. Its aim is to reverse a 1986 IWC ban that has allowed many whale species to begin a long, slow recovery. In mid-June, the 66 nations of the regulatory body will gather, and Japan is expected to succeed in winning the votes of many cash-poor IWC members. Overturning the ban requires a 75 percent vote, but Japan may first secure a 51 percent vote to conduct balloting in secret.
The prospect of the IWC allowing the slaughter of whale species not fully recovered has yet to raise much fuss in many antiwhaling nations. But it should, given the importance of whales in the health of oceans.
If the UN General Assembly or the US does not act soon, then a consumer boycott of Japanese products is needed. That will catch the attention of Japanese corporate leaders, who can then pressure politicians leading the pro-whaling campaign.
These politicians regard the ban as Western "culinary imperialism" aimed at Japan's tradition of eating whale meat. But the issue is conservation, not culture, and the Japanese data and arguments that many whale species are fully revived should remain suspect, and certainly not acted on in a secret IWC ballot.