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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #116: March 27, 2003

Japan to Launch Spy Satellites

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Japan to Launch Spy Satellites"
by Washington Post


Japan does not have any armed forces, as it is prohibited by the constitution, so it owns what is called self-defense forces (SDF). Although the size of the SDF is sometimes pointed out to be large, especially in comparison to other Asian countries except China, per capita budget allotted to the SDF is very meager among any nation on the globe and notably so compared to other industrialized countries.

The capabilities of the SDF must be further discounted by the fact that it has never engaged in actual confrontation since its inception more than half a century ago. They do conduct trainings on the usage of guns and other gadgets, but very little in simulating real conflicts. Their mission, in reality, has been limited mostly to disaster relief operations caused by natural calamities, and to perform ceremonial functions at certain events such as the Olympic Games.

It is, therefore, by the security treaty with the US that Japan is protected from any military attack originating abroad. Without any intention to start a debate on good and evil of the treaty in general here, it is generally recognized that it was under the umbrella of the US forces that Japan had been able to utilize its resouces productively, to enjoy its miraculous growth reaching the most affluent level human beings have ever reached.

Another aspect of this is that it has been a taboo in Japan's politics to assume, or even just to dream, that there might be someone out there who would want to attack Japan, as it has been the official position that Japan is a peace loving country not ill-willed against anyone.

The sentiment began to change by sequence of events and indications that became known toward late 90's, one of which is the incident referred to in the article when North Korea fired its missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. It raised two issues. One was that it showed there may be someone who really might want to attack Japan, and the other was a certain doubt as to whether leaving the national security wholly in the hands of foreign, the US, military powers would be wise.

The first issue has since been resolved in an automatic manner. Last September, when the leader of North Korea Kim Jon Il admitted, among a long list of hostile actions, that they had kidnapped a number of Japanese citizens, awareness of security began to unfold among Japanese people. It is worth noting that there is virtually no one objecting the launch of the satellite in Japan, where if it were sometime ago there could be opposition parties questioning and people shouting on the streets, just as it is happening with regard to the Iraqi incident.

As to the second issue, to Japan's desire to see the world from outside the US military umbrella, the US has voiced no objection. Formally, they have no right to intervene with such policy issues, but also in reality, as it would relieve, albeit very little, of the burden it is bearing, they should be welcoming the Japan's new initiative. After all, there is no worry for Japan to turn hostile to the US in any accord, as, among other things, Japan being a peace loving country.

The only notable repercussion coming out from is, expectedly, North Korea. They claim that if Japan would launch the satellite, it will give them to do the same. Well, of course North Korea has the right to launch a satellite of its own so long as it observes and acts in accordance with the rules already established internationally in launching such objects.

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