Leading article: Beat Japan on its own terms

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The Independent Online

The omens don't look good because, as The Independent has revealed, a devious strategy of entryism has enabled Japan to stuff the International Whaling Commission with clients whose main purpose for joining is to dilute the 1986 ban and put harpooners back in business. So it is that a host of countries, some of which have not even a coast, let alone a history of whaling, have recently joined the IWC - their interest in whaling's revival linked to financial sweeteners from Tokyo.

The sums involved are mere gewgaws to Japan - a few million dollars here or there - but the money is enough to buy their support for Japan's agenda of piecemeal dismantling of the 1986 ban, firstly by voting to end the IWC's conservation agenda and secondly by introducing secret ballots into the IWC voting system. This means no one will be able to tell which countries voted for or against hunting bans, and it will make the conservationists' task that much harder.

So, what to do? The worst strategy would be to sit back and hope some of Japan's new clients on the IWC will not bother to vote, which is what happened last year in South Korea, when Japan already had a narrow majority on the IWC thanks to the advent of such sudden enthusiasts for whaling as Gambia, Togo and Mali. As Japan's delegate, Akira Nakamae, then confidently remarked, however, "the reversal of history, the turning point is soon to come". Too true, as matters stand.

The way to jolt Mr Nakamae's calculations is to make it transparently clear to the Japanese government that public opinion here is as adamantly and passionately opposed to the hunting of the great whales as they may be for it. We need to sound the tocsin over this issue, mobilise, and put pressure on our governments to be far more active than they have been in confronting Japan on the IWC. Japan's strategy of enlisting impoverished proxies to serve its purposes needs to be rumbled and exposed.

At the same time, we need to deal with these new members in a direct fashion. If that means imitating Japan's tactics, so be it. Collectively, the anti-whaling countries could easily outbid Tokyo and get some of the new IWC members on to our side instead. In a country that places much store on "face", such a defeat would mean a great deal.

We should feel no compunction about resorting to such tactics. St Paul told the early Christians to be "as wise as serpents, as innocent as doves", by which he meant it sometimes pays to be sneaky in the service of a good cause. Well this is one of them, so let's get to it. Now there's an Easter message for you.