Japan Formalizes Military Role in Space Program, Weighs Change in Constitution

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In an essay in the Asia-Pacific Journal, Maeda Sawako looks at the increasing militarization of Japan’s space efforts, an effort formalized by the “Basic Law on Space” last year:

After two decades of inconsistency between “the Principle of peaceful use of space” and the reality of militarized space activity, the new Japanese space law enacted in 2008 lifted the ban on the use of space technology for military purposes.

Japanese space policy reformed in 2008 implies the revision of the meaning of “peaceful” use from “non-military” use to “non-aggressive” use. The revision raises a serious conflict with the second paragraph of Article 9 of the Constitution, which declares that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential will never be maintained”. The first priority of space use in “the Basic Law on Space” is given to international and national security. Industrial development is next…

In response to the approval of “the Basic Law on Space”, the FY2009 space budget is weighted even more heavily toward military purposes. The new BMD budget was appropriated as a space-related project. The total budget for space development is about 349 billion yen with a 10% increase over the FY2008 budget. Most of the increase is in military fields such as IGS, the space-related part of the BMD system, the GX rockets, and the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS)….

Some political leaders of the LDP and of the DPJ have claimed the right to preemptive attack by firing missiles and even nuclear weapons with specific reference to the Korean Peninsula. Such armaments inevitably contradict the Constitution, particularly the second paragraph of Article 9 which prohibits Japan from holding any kind of war potential. Pressures for reform of Article 9 have continued to come from many quarters. Just before the change of the political party in power in August 2009, the Council on Security and Defense Capability (a private council of the prime minister) published a report emphasizing that “We should decide the basic principles on national security policy” in place of “the Exclusively Defense-Oriented Policy”. The report calls for review of the constitutional interpretation on the right of collective self-defense, making it lawful in order to make it possible to intercept a missile on its way to the U.S.

Read the full essay.