23 January 2012
Japan Moves To Relax Restrictions on Military Space Development
By Paul Kallender-Umezu
Defense News


TOKYO - Japan is set to end legal restrictions on the nation�s main space agency so that it can partici�pate in military space development, following recommendations from a top government panel.

The Special Advisory Committee of the Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy (SHSP) also approved key changes that will fundamentally alter the management of Japan�s space program.

A senior government official fa�miliar with the decision said the recommendations mean the SHSP is now drafting several pieces of legis�lation for Japan�s Diet (Congress) that should be passed as early as April or as late as July, when the up�coming Diet session ends. The first item is to amend the law governing the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The official said the legislation will amend Article 4 of the law govern�ing JAXA, drafted in 2003, deleting the stipulation that the agency pur�sues space development �for peace�ful purposes only,� and as such will bring it in line with the Basic Space Law of May 2008.

The Basic Law overturned a 1960s-era resolution that Japan�s space development be for peaceful purposes only, but had excepted JAXA.

The official said the proposed law will bring JAXA under Article 2 of the Basic Law that space develop�ment be �in accordance with the pacifism of the Constitution of Japan,� and Article 14, �The State shall take the necessary measures to promote space development and use to endure international peace and security as well as to con�tribute to the national security of Japan.� The change in effect brings JAXA in line with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which allows for the non-ag�gressive/defensive use of military space and prohibits the deployment of weapons of mass destruction, the official said. The new legislation will bring JAXA in line with the Basic Law and international conventions, the official said.

Takafumi Matsui, deputy chair�man of the SHSP�s Special Advisory Committee, said the committee also recommended a major administra�tive change that requires new legis�lation to establish political control of Japan�s space strategy. This legisla�tion will be submitted along with the proposed change in JAXA�s law.

Currently, Japan�s space develop�ment is controlled by a hodgepodge of competing ministries, with no centralized administrative leader�ship. For example, JAXA�s policies are controlled by two ministries: the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). Yet Japan�s reconnaissance satellites are controlled by a different part of the bureaucracy.

The proposed legislation would put the Cabinet Office (CO) in control of Japan�s space planning and budget, Matsui said. The CO would set up a Strategic Space Of�fice and a Strategic Space Develop�ment Commission, probably of five members, who would have overall control of space policy and report directly to the prime minister, Mat�sui said.

Matsui said the recent decision was the final step in three and a half years of negotiations among several of Japan�s government ministries about how to implement the Basic Law. That law had mandated CO control of Japan�s space develop�ment and the establishment of a Space Agency to streamline deci�sion-making and allow Japan to shift its focus away from space sci�ence and technological develop�ment to commercialization and na�tional security. But the movement had been stymied by MEXT and MIC, which opposed loss of control of JAXA.

As a partial solution, the Special Advisory Committee last September recommended that the CO take con�trol of the development Japan�s new regional GPS system, called the Qua�si-Zenith Satellite System, parts of which were being independently fi�nanced under budget lines by sever�al competing ministries.

Under the legislation being drawn up, most of Japan�s ministries will still have a say in the CO�s policy�making proposals, but ultimate con�trol will be in the hands of the new commission,. �a sort of grand com�promise,� the government official said.

Insiders are divided as to how much the legislation will accelerate Japan�s military space development amid the pull and push of different priorities and strong institutional ret�icence in Japan to militarize.

The Society of Japanese Aero�space Companies, which repre�sents the country�s space and aerospace community, is lobbying the government to develop a range of reconnaissance and early warn�ing satellites for missile defense. The Ministry of Defense in 2009 drew up a long shopping list of po�tential military space needs, in�cluding spy, early warning, com�munications and signals intelli�gence satellites, and space situa�tional awareness and defensive counterspace technologies.

But facing a flat budget and lack of human resources, the MoD has put such items on the back burner, sources said.

Given JAXA�s long institutional commitment to research and de�velopment of only peaceful space technologies, change could come slowly, said Hiroaki Akiyama, di�rector of the Institute for Educa�tion on Space at Wakayama Uni�versity, and a close watcher of the SHSP�s moves.

JAXA itself commands the largest chunk of Japan�s space spending; its fiscal 2012 budget in�cluded 173 billion yen ($2.3 billion) out of the 297 billion yen Japan will spend on space this year. And JAXA has been responsible for de�veloping a wide range of dual-use technologies.

By removing its peaceful pur�poses-only mandate, Matsui said, the change in JAXA�s law will make it easier for Japan to devel�op military space programs, as it could open up the technical knowledge and human resources available in the agency.

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