August 25, 2005
Japan Postpones Launch of Spy Satellite
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan has decided to postpone the launch of a third spy satellite from the current fiscal year to fiscal 2006 due to technical difficulties, a media report said Thursday.
Japan launched two spy satellites in March 2003 amid concerns about the security threat posed by North Korea, which claims to have nuclear weapons.
A fourth satellite is still scheduled for launch in the fiscal year starting April 2006, Kyodo said.
Tokyo's spy satellite program was prompted by North Korea's surprise test launch of a long-range missile over Japan's main island in 1998. The government's original plan was to put a total of eight spy satellites into orbit through 2006 to keep watch on the communist country.
In November 2003, a rocket carrying two spy satellites malfunctioned and was destroyed in flight.
Officials say the satellites are not meant as a provocation and would also be used for other missions such as monitoring natural disasters and weather patterns.
Critics say sending up spy satellites goes against a long-standing policy of conducting only non-military space missions.