Japanese vessel Yushin Maru No. 2, center, sails alongside Sea Shepherds' The Bob Barker, left, in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica. Pic: AP.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has sharply criticized Japan for allowing a whaling boat to enter New Zealand’s economic waters.

New Zealand says Japanese officials last week ignored requests for the Shonan Maru 2 to steer clear of New Zealand’s 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone as the whaler followed an anti-whaling protest vessel.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully says the entry was “unhelpful, disrespectful and short-sighted” and summoned Japan’s top diplomat to express New Zealand’s “deep disappointment.”

The Japanese Embassy declined immediate comment Monday.

Glenn Inwood, spokesman for the Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research, says every vessel has a legal right to enter another country’s economic waters and New Zealand’s request was only that.

He says the Shonan Maru 2 was monitoring the Sea Shepherd protest boat Steve Irwin following harassment near Antarctica.