KYOTO, Japan — Threats by Japan to quit the International Whaling Commission were renewed Tuesday after the group's technical panel approved a French plan to create a whale sanctuary in the Antarctic.
Environmentalists called the vote a moral victory but said the sanctuary plan almost certainly lacks the votes needed for approval by the full commission.
The creation of a sanctuary would end Japan's research-whaling program, which lets it catch about 300 minke whales a year in the Antarctic.
Although whaling is economically insignificant in Japan, the issue has taken on symbolic significance. The government says anti-whaling efforts amount to foreign meddling in Japan's culture.
Tuesday's preliminary vote required only a simple majority. Final approval would require a three-quarters vote.