Japan Plans Enhanced Space-Based Missile Alert System
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Japanese government plans to make improvements to satellites in order to augment its capability to quickly detect a North Korean missile launch, Reuters reported (see GSN, May 26).
The satellite-based early warning system falls under the nation's recently revised space policy. Tokyo placed four spy satellites into orbit following North Korea's 1998 missile test, but the data-collection technology has since become outdated.
Under the new plan, approved by a panel led by Prime Minister Taro Aso, Japan would increase the quality and quantity of satellite imagery of areas of interest. Tokyo would also seek to improve the efficiency with which information is transmitted, and it plans to create a missile early warning system.
One group of ruling-party lawmakers suggested that Japan should pass a bill authorizing the inspection of North Korea cargo ships (see related GSN story, today). Such activities are now prohibited under the nation's pacifist constitution.
The group hopes to push through a cargo-check bill by the end of July, according to Liberal Democratic Party legislator Ichita Yamamoto
"The fact that the LDP is discussing this and that we are coming up with draft bills could send a message to North Korea," he said.
However, it is not clear how many lawmakers would be willing to take this step, since inspections might be regarded as an act of war by Pyongyang (Isabel Reynolds, Reuters, June 2).
A panel of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers today said Japan should be permitted to attack North Korea in order to stave off aggression, Agence France-Presse reported.
"North Korea may obtain nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles," said former Japanese defense chief Gen Nakatani. "Naturally, we need to be able to strike enemy bases within the realm of the self-defense of our country."
The lawmakers, who could submit their idea to Aso next week, propose allowing Japan its "own capability of attacking enemy bases under the joint missile defense program with its main ally the United States," according to Hiroshi Imazu, the panel's chairman (Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com, June 3).