TOKYO, Feb. 19, 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- An antiwhaling activist from New Zealand who has been detained since boarding a Japanese vessel in the Antarctic Ocean is in good health, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Friday.
The New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo confirmed by telephone how Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activist Pete Bethune is doing on board the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru No. 2, which is bringing him to Japan for questioning.
The telephone talks took place Thursday night, Okada told a regular press conference, adding that Bethune has been given a private room and a certain freedom of movement while being placed under watch.
The conservationist boarded the Japanese whaling fleet's security vessel on Monday and is suspected of having injured some Japanese crew members by throwing bottles of butyric acid on Feb. 11.
Meanwhile, Okada said that he ''welcomes'' Togo's decision to remove the Togo registry of one of the Sea Shepherd's ships, the Bob Barker.
Losing registry could mean that the ship will face difficulties in making port calls, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry official.
Okada reiterated the Japanese government's position that Japan's ''research whaling'' is legal and that he would like to exchange opinions with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on the issue during his visit to Australia from Saturday.
Rudd told a local television Friday that Australia will initiate legal action with the aim of suspending such whaling by Japan before the commencement of the whaling season in November 2010, if diplomatic talks do not lead Japan to cease its whaling activities.
Japan halted commercial whaling in 1986 in line with an international moratorium but has been hunting whales since 1987 for what it says are scientific purposes, which some environmentalists condemn as a cover for commercial whaling.