The LDP and DPJ cooperate on space

The House of Councillors has, as expected, passed a new space basic law on the back of cooperation between the LDP, Komeito, and the DPJ.

As noted previously, the law ends the 1969 ban on the use of space for military purposes, permitting the government to deploy high-resolution spy satellites. The law also calls for the creation of a cabinet-level space agency.

This effort was backed by an alliance of LDP boei zoku, industrial concerns, and defense ministry bureaucrats interested in promoting a “space vision for the national defense.”

I wonder what the US government makes of Japan’s pursuit of higher quality spy satellites and a more active space posture, in light of Ambassador Schieffer’s remarks this week. Does this program meet the ambassador’s approval? As this Mainichi article notes, there are fears among Japan’s defense establishment that in the event of a crisis it would take too long to get information on missile launches from the US. It seems reasonable to me that Japan would want more autonomous intelligence-gathering capabilities. I suspect that this aspect of the basic law helped bring the DPJ on board, considering that the DPJ’s hawks tend to emphasize more independence from the US than their LDP counterparts.

While the law’s advocates stressed the importance of military satellites to aide the JSDF’s expeditionary capabilities, this is basic law is about defending the Japanese homeland. This is a prime example of Japan’s pursuit of a “hedgehog” defense policy. As Machimura Nobutaka said at a press conference Wednesday, the idea of Japan using this law for aggressive ends is absurd.

As Ross pointed out here, the US must recognize that “a more capable Japan is a more independent Japan.”

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