Japan's H-IIA rocket. Flickr photo user Watarus.

Also from the Chosun Ilbo, an article about Japan’s expanded empire in orbit.

The Japanese government could launch an early warning satellite that can detect missile launches abroad by 2013. It also wants to increase the number of reconnaissance satellites from the current three to four.

The Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy of the Japanese Cabinet Office finalized a five-year space policy plan Monday. “For the first time, it is stipulated in writing that space technology can be used for national defense,” the Nihon Keizai Shimbun wrote. Military use of technology is an unusually sensitive subject in Japan because of its pacifist postwar Constitution. (Link)

With regards to reconnaissance satellites, this is one of the places where the lack of a joint U.S. – Japan command structure hurts Japan the most. The U.S. shares a great deal of satellite intelligence with its NATO allies within the NATO framework. Without such a similar system, it’s more difficult for Japan to get American satellite recon.

The mentioned early warning satellite is particularly interesting, because Japan has relied upon the U.S. – Canadian NORAD in order to report missile launches in its area. During the 2009 Taepongdong-2 North Korean rocket launch, Japanese Aegis destroyers observed the initial launch, but due the curvature of the Earth were unable to track the North Korean rocket once it was in the vicinity of Hawaii. Possibly the Japanese are worried that NORAD will be too busy watching Iran, Pakistan, and India to properly watch North Korea.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch