Japan sent its whaling fleet to sea today with much fanfare, including fireworks and a brass band. Despite angry international protests and the possibility of U.S. sanctions, the Japanese intend to kill 400 minke whales over the next five months, part of an expanded whaling effort that the Japanese insist is for research purposes. Critics contend that the research program is merely an excuse to provide Japanese restaurants with pricey whale meat. Yesterday at an Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Brunei, President Clinton called on Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to curtail the country’s whaling efforts. Clinton is expected to decide before he leaves office in January whether to recommend that Congress impose sanctions against Japan because of its whaling.