April 22, 2009

Japan Considers Satellite To Detects Missile Launches

A government official said Wednesday, Japan is mulling an early warning satellite that can detect missile launches amid worries about North Korea's missile power.

On April 5, Pyongynag launched a rocket that Japan saw as a disguised missile test.  The launch has sparked calls for Japan to consider possessing an early warning satellite and churning up a missile shield.

Kei Oguro, an official at the government's Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy said, after being asked whether Japan is considering an early warning satellite after North Korea's rocket launch, that "I think there certainly are views like that."

However, he was not able to confirm whether the idea will be included in the draft of the government's first comprehensive space strategy.  The strategy is expected to be announced in May.

Wednesday, the Yomiuri newspaper quoted the draft saying that "Seeing the move in April 2009 when North Korea launched a missile despite calls to refrain from the United Nations Security Council and the international community, the role of space has heightened compared to before."

Defense minister Yasukazu Hamada said earlier this month, following the North's launch, that Japan should consider having an early warning system to boost the reliability of its ballistic missile defense system.

Japan introduced a new space law last year that allows military use of space, ending a decades-old pacifist policy, amid worries about North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities.

The law opened up ways for the nation's space industry to compete globally, while allowing the military to launch its own satellites for spying and warn of missile launches, but ruling out offensive weapons in space.