SEOUL, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- North Korea slammed Japan for its whaling practices Monday, calling the hunt for marine mammals a "criminal act."
Pyongyang's state newspaper Rodong Sinmun denounced Japan's heavily subsidized whaling industry in an article published with the headline, "The black-hearted intentions of the whale hunter," South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
"While ignoring the strong condemnations of the international community, and solely for the pursuit of profits, Japan's reckless act of pursuing whale-hunting is a criminal act that is depleting the Earth's precious whale stock," Pyongyang stated.
Japan's whale-hunting activities previously have drawn criticism from activist groups like Greenpeace and countries like Australia, but not from North Korea. Since a ban on whaling was signed into international law in 1986, Japan has insisted it is pursuing whaling for scientific research, while killing at least hundreds of whales annually.
Japan does not typically fish in North Korea waters, but Pyongyang said that Japanese fishermen set out to the South Pacific annually between November and April to capture numerous whales, while "fooling the eyes of the international community." North Korea also said Japan's claims to "scientific research" was "nothing more than a smokescreen to hide its commercial objectives."
In June 2010, Australia presented Japan's whaling practices before the International Court of Justice, and had said Asia's second-largest economy "has breached and is continuing to breach obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling," according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Japan's nationalists, however, said they could no longer tolerate foreign meddling with an industry borne out of the country's tradition, Jiji Press reported.
During a rally on Saturday, the conservative activists called an anti-whaling group "environmental terrorists," and told a crowd to "protect Japanese food culture from Western hypocritical values."
Consumption of whales in Japan, however, is decreasing. According to Greenpeace, the Japanese whaling industry is struggling with debt while threatening Japanese activists with jail time.