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June 20th, 2008
Japan Appoints First Space Development Minister

Japan appointed Fumio Kishida as its first space development minister, following a law passed last month that allows Japan to use outer space for the purposes of national security. The new law aims to remove legal barriers of spy satellite use and to strengthen Japan’s global space industry.

Critics argue that it could lead to military build-up, but the legislation was overwhelmingly approved 221-14 by Japan’s national legislature, the Diet. The law detracts from the 1969 ban on military use of space for peaceful purposes. It is also speculated that the law could create strong ties with the U.S. in missile defense.

Leading space advocate and architect of the new law, Takeo Kawamura, envisions the creation of a Japanese version of NASA. He plans to double Japan’s space budget over the next decade.

Japan began ramping up military research of outer space in 1998, after North Korea launched a missile over mainland Japan into the Pacific. In 2003, Japan launched its first spy satellites to improve surveillance of the region, including North Korea.

This summer, WIDE ANGLE explores the evolution of Japan’s re-militarization. Japan’s About-Face provides a window into the shifting role of Japan’s post-war military within the context of Asian geopolitics.

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