TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan has decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in a bid to resume commercial whaling, government sources said Thursday.
However, the country is unlikely to catch whales in the Antarctic Ocean even after its IWC pullout, as the government is mulling allowing Japan's commercial whaling only in seas near Japan as well as the country's exclusive economic zone, the sources added.
The decision, which will be announced by the end of this year, comes as pro- and anti-whaling members of the IWC have been stuck in decades of confrontation.
Japan's withdrawal, planned for next year, could spark criticism from European and other countries opposed to the practice of whaling. It is extremely rare for Japan to withdraw from an international organization.
The nation's attempts over the last 30 years to resume commercial whaling of relatively abundant species such as minke whales have always been stymied by countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
Most recently, its proposal to ease the IWC's decision-making rules was also voted down in an annual meeting in September, and Tokyo issued a veiled warning of a potential pullout.
To leave the IWC next year, Japan needs to notify the commission by Jan. 1.
While Japan halted commercial whaling in line with a moratorium adopted in 1982 by the IWC, it has hunted whales since 1987 for what it calls "scientific research" purposes. But this has been criticized internationally as a cover for commercial purposes.
Japan also suggested in 2007 that it might withdraw from the IWC, in protest at the ban on commercial whaling, but it was later persuaded by the United States and other countries to remain in the organization.
Japan joined the IWC in 1951. The entity was established in 1948 under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling to conserve whales and realize the "orderly development of the whaling industry."