Richard Spencer / The London Telegraph – 2008-05-19 02:01:18
BEIJING (May 9, 2008) — Japan’s defense forces are to be allowed to operate in space for the first time as they try to counter military expansion in North Korea and China. A committee of the Japanese parliament has voted to revise the law [that] until now has prevented the use of space for military purposes.
The proposed law specifies that any use must be “non-aggressive”, but Japan is concerned about China, which is already trying to counter the huge lead that the United States has in space warfare technology.
The timing is embarrassing for President Hu Jintao of China, who is visiting Japan on a five-day tour aimed at cementing the improvement in relations between the two Asian rivals.
The Japanese military claims the current restriction, introduced in 1969, puts it at a disadvantage, particularly in its use of spy satellites.
Although Japan has surveillance satellites, they are operated by a civilian department answering to the prime minister, which limits their usefulness. Japan is also collaborating with the US in developing a missile defence shield, much to the consternation of China and Russia.
Last year, Beijing shot down a redundant weather satellite with a land-based missile to demonstrate its abilities to mount a challenge in this area.
NOTE: The Space Preservation Treaty bans all space-based weapons, including space-based missile defence, and is enforced by an independent outer space peacekeeping agency.
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