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Government boosting use of space for military purposes

While denouncing North Korea for its rocket launch, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party-led government has been accelerating its moves, including having legislation passed, to promote the use of space specifically for military purposes.

On April 2, the LDP National Defense Division's subcommittee discussed the further use of space for military purposes and the issue of the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system.

On April 9, the subcommittee is to discuss the present status of the nation's information system, specifically, upgrading the capabilities of military information gathering satellites and the introduction of early warning satellite systems.

In carrying out the further development and upgrading of military satellites, Defense Ministry officials at the previous meeting explained that it is attaching importance to increasing the capabilities of gathering image information, radio wave-related information, as well as the early warning system.

Also, "in order to bloc ballistic missiles from reaching Japan," they emphasized the need to carry out the joint development and deployment of upgraded interceptor missiles by Japan and the U.S. to replace the presently deployed SM-3 Block IA missiles.

A group of the Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy (headed by the prime minister) placed under the cabinet met on April 3 to publish a gist of the basic plan on the development and use of space for military purposes. As regards the development and reinforcement of Japan's military satellite system, it refers to the further study of sensors used for early warning satellites.

These meetings and publications were designed to implement the "Basic Law for the Development of Space" that allowed Japan to use space for military purposes. The Law was enacted in May 2008 with the support of the LDP, Komei, and Democratic parties.

Last February, the Japan Business Organizations (Keidanren) issued a proposal calling for streamlining the establishment of a basic plan for strategic space use and its process. It urges the government to develop and use state-of-the-art technologies to meet the requirements of the new basic law.

The proposal calls for allowing the possession and use of military satellites ("exclusively for defense") by the Defense Ministry and the enactment of a military secrets protection law.

The government expects the basic plan to gain Diet approval in May.

Criticizing these government policies, Yoshii Hidekatsu, Japanese Communist Party member at the House of Representatives Cabinet Committee meetings on March 13 and April 3 stated that the government has been clinging to the idea of pushing space development, to be led by the military-industrial complex, following the enactment of the Space Development Basic Law.

Also criticizing the LDP, Komei, and Democratic parties for pushing and/or supporting this, he stressed that Japan's space policy should return to the principle of the peaceful use of space.

- Akahata, April 7, 2009

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