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In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy

In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy

by Saadia Pekkanen

In Defense of Japan provides the first complete, up-to-date, English-language account of the history, politics, and policy of Japan's strategic space development. The dual-use nature of space technologies, meaning that they cut across both market and military applications, has had two important consequences for Japan. First, Japan has developed space


In Defense of Japan provides the first complete, up-to-date, English-language account of the history, politics, and policy of Japan's strategic space development. The dual-use nature of space technologies, meaning that they cut across both market and military applications, has had two important consequences for Japan. First, Japan has developed space technologies for the market in its civilian space program that have yet to be commercially competitive. Second, faced with rising geopolitical uncertainties and in the interest of their own economics, the makers of such technologies have been critical players in the shift from the market to the military in Japan's space capabilities and policy. This book shows how the sum total of market-to-military moves across space launch vehicles, satellites and spacecraft, and emerging related technologies, already mark Japan as an advanced military space power.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In Defense of Japan remains an impressively well-researched and valuable book that makes a groundbreaking contribution to our understanding of Japan. — Thomas U. Berger, Journal of Japanese Studies

"There is an abundance of technical information here to satisfy readers with that particular interest, and the combination of Pekkanen's legal expertise coupled with Kallender-Uzemu's knowledge of Japan's space industry results in a richly detailed and insightful policy analysis that very few scholars in the field today could produce on their own. . . One hopes that policymakers in Washington, D.C. will take particular note of this publication and give it the careful and critical reading it deserves."—Walter E. Grunden, Technology and Culture

"[An] excellent case study on Japan's space policy . . . This book is a readable, cogent examination of the interaction of corporate interests with national security interests, and adds needed nuance to the emerging understanding of Japan as an important player in the field of international security."—Col. David Hunter-Chester, Military Review

"[V]ery ambitious and admirable. The book is based on very extensive research and it provides a good record of the path of Japanese space policy development. It is a good book to use as a concise data book of Japanese space history."—Kazuto Suzuki, Social Science Japan Journal

"In Defense of Japan draws substantively from an impressive number and variety of sources . . . [T]he authors siphon a wealth of factual detail to document the market-to-military trend . . . Anyone interested in reading a thoroughly researched, up-to-date, English-language treatise on the dual-use nature of Japan's evolving space activities need look no further than this particular volume, which might serve as a model for historically grounded analyses of other national space policies and programs."—Rick W. Sturdevant, High Frontier
"The subject of this book is highly technical . . . But the bottom line is clear enough: Japan's capabilities are widely underestimated, all the more so in space . . . The strategic logic for Japan's space program is obvious, with a growing naval, space, and nuclear power across the East China Sea and a second nuclear power even closer, on the Korean Peninsula . . . It is too soon to count Japan out in the arms race in Asia."—Andrew J. Nathan, Foreign Affairs
"What makes this book so useful and impressive is that it draws together extensive coverage of developments in Japan's space industry—both from the government and the corporate side—with a broad treatment of government reform and Japan's evolving security policy. In addition, it provides the most sustained argument I am aware of on the role of corporations in Japan's security policymaking."—Andrew L. Oros, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Washington College

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Stanford University Press
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In Defense of Japan

By Saadia M. Pekkanen Paul Kallender-Umezu

Stanford University Press

Copyright © 2010 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8047-0063-4

Chapter One


THIS BOOK FOCUSES ON JAPAN'S CAPABILITIES IN SPACE, with a view to understanding their progression over time. In the face of repeated commercial disappointments and continuing scientific uncertainties, Japan has managed to develop and maintain an indigenous space industry-one that today marks it as a military space power. Certainly, these developments in the industry have taken place in plain sight of the public within a steadily advancing civilian space program. Were all this part of a long-term coherent national strategy, of course, it would be understandable and perhaps play a part in the current debates refashioning our understanding of Japanese grand strategy. Inconveniently for the theorists, however, Japan's commitment to the space industry long predates the very recent formulation of anything like a coherent national strategy, which came with the passage of Japan's first ever Basic Space Law in 2008, and the subsequent Basic Space Plan in 2009.

How, then, can we understand the long-term and significant commitment the country has made to space? How do we begin to understand the shift from what we call the market-to-the military in space developments? This latter question is all the more important because the new Basic Space Law matters in a fundamental and transformative way. It means that Japan's space policy has officially transitioned from one that exists only for peaceful purposes (a distinct definition that originally limited Japan from the development of any space technology that could be used for military purposes) to one with a strong-and, at long last, visible-emphasis on national security and the use of military space as a critical component of Japan's strategic defense.

Important answers lie in the market. To be clear, the market was the driver not because of corporate success, but because of corporate setbacks. Through a conjunction of historical accidents rather than overarching purposeful design, corporations found their choices narrowing over time. With investments already in the commercial space industry that were not turning a profit, corporations looked to salvage or bolster their bottom lines by pushing their allies in the government to develop military space projects. Because of the unusual prevalence of dual-use technology in the space industry, this could be eco nomically profitable and, as it turned out, politically attractive and legitimately possible over time as Japan faced rising external security challenges. These elements make up the essence of the market-to-military trend. In the meantime, through small twists and turns, the strategy of militarizing Japanese space assets-as observable through formal laws, institutions, reports, plans, policies, and so on-continues to reflect the economic interests and especially capabilities of the private makers of space technology.

Why might a focus on space development be important at all? This is a dual-use sector, with assets that yield both civilian and military value and that are difficult to distinguish neatly across these very dimensions. Whether right or wrong, desirable or not, governments and militaries around the world increasingly mark space as a strategic asset and see it as a primary provider and enabler of of war-fighting capabilities. For most of the postwar era, because of tightly held constraints on the kinds of technology it could develop for space use, Japan never remotely hinted at the militarization of its space program. By this, we mean the recognition, value, and use of space assets for military, or national security, purposes. In the context of space-based military capabilities, we follow the key mission areas identified by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as the United States Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). These include the abilities of a government to provide space support (i.e., to be able to get to and maneuver in space with functioning launch vehicles and spacecraft) and space force enhancement (i.e., to be able to increase the combat and success potential of a combat force). Both of these have long been seen without controversy, at least outside Japan, as force multipliers in that the technology increases the potential of traditional forces across a range of operations. But then there is the possibility of weaponization of space assets, which has also been carefully excised from mention in Japan's civilian space program. This takes us into the nebulous-and, we believe, largely indistinguishable-realm of space control and counterspace (i.e., to be able to reap advantages of space assets while others cannot through surveillance, protection, prevention, and negation); and also space force application (i.e., to be able to overtly engage in weaponization), which is highly controversial in terms of cost and effectiveness in the long run.

The dimensions above are certainly relevant to an analysis of Japan's space developments, and this is essentially what we undertake in this book. The market- to- military trend in Japan's space sector is very much in keeping with worldwide trends, which showcase the importance of land, naval, air, and increasingly space, as dominant theaters of operations. As the most prominent example, since 2001, there has been a corresponding concern at the highest echelons of the U.S. government about protecting the nation's ever-burgeoning reliance on space assets for both commercial and, especially, military purposes-a trend we will show is also reflected in Japan's case in successive stages and across technologies. Other observers have of course provided commentaries on the shifting priorities of Japanese space policy from the late 1990s onward, foreseeing either a continuing and deepening national security role or an opportunity to be managed by major space players like the United States. To date, however, detailed analyses of the concomitant space systems-rockets and missiles, satellites and spacecraft, guidance, reentry, command, control systems, and so on-needed for Japan to develop an in de pen dent strategic military capability have not been available.

We take steps in this general direction, with the goal of showing the range of systems Japan has and is developing with its space technologies that can be used for its national defense goals. From a global perspective, this is hardly controversial. The fact is space is not a true sanctuary from military activity by governments around the world-Japan now explicitly included. There are, of course, caveats in our Japan-centered narrative-failures, underdeveloped technologies, wrong turns and twists. Nevertheless, we maintain that Japan's cutting- edge space technologies, and now its institutional and legislative changes, mark Japan as a military space power. To put it in the more well-known dimensions above, we show how Japan long ago traversed space support, is now deeply engaged in space force enhancement, and may well have discrete elements of both space control and space force application well under way.


In this book we focus on space policy in Japan in a thematic and chronological fashion-the legal and institutional context, the players, the industry, and especially the technology-to show how and in what ways Japan has been able to develop military capabilities in space. This is pertinent at a time when there are changes in Japan's security policies that fuel debates about the country's security directions and, popularly put, re-militarization ambitions. As recently as the start of 2008, it seemed that the debate over the scope and contents of Japan's defense had emerged forcefully from its postwar shadows, with even nuclear options no longer as taboo in Japanese public discourse as they once were. As some suggested outright, it may well be true that Japan's military posture has not been this robust since before the Pacific War. A number of small but concerted institutional and legal moves have interacted with geopolitical developments to move Japan steadily down the path to ever more assertive security postures. In early 2007 these moves resulted in the transformation of the Japan Defense Agency (JDA) into the Ministry of Defense (MOD)-the symbolic upgrading of Japan's defense concerns most visible to an audience both at home and abroad.

But the complicated fact is that such discrete elements in domestic politics, and the din associated with them, are now coalescing across people, parties, institutions, and laws in new struggles over how best to secure Japan in this new century. Nobody is quite sure what all this tumult means, or where it may be headed. In the meantime, these struggles continue to highlight ongoing controversies on a number of significant dimensions-the constrained but increasing nature of Japan as a military actor, the push and pull of Japan's continued dependence on the alliance with the United States, and possibly the residual but eroding anti-militaristic sentiments across Japan. They also certainly continue to energize debates about retrenchment and radicalism in Japan's security policy. Even with the gathering storm over Japan's re-militarization debates, however, the case for Japan as a military space power is difficult to make all around. There are at least three reasons for this, the last of which segues into the analytics.

First, a focus on Japan's actual military capabilities is a small part of the debates over Japanese security policies. Seen in this light the very idea of Japan as a military space power seems misplaced given disputes over Japan's status even as a conventional military power. However, earlier works have broken considerable ground in correcting impressions of Japan as a military pygmy. Even a very cursory examination we undertake below in line with these works shows that Japan continues to be on par with other countries in terms of military expenditures and even, to some extent, force capabilities. Table 1.1 illustrates Japan's defense expenditures over the course of the 2000s. Putting aside the United States, whose expenditures dwarf those of all others, it shows that Japan's known value of military expenditures is comparable to that of other dominant players. Despite the 1 percent ceiling, estimates over roughly a five-year period place the country's military expenditures among the highest in the world.

Table 1.2 shows Japan's military capabilities in comparison to other dominant military players, especially in the Asian region. In keeping with other estimates, it presents a mixed picture of Japan's defensive and offensive capabilities across the ser vices. Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) continues to lack any serious offensive capabilities for land warfare abroad, but can certainly defend its own turf. The Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) may also be somewhat stronger on defense, being able to protect its airspace using its fighters for defense and its Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft for coordination to improve situational awareness. Although Japan does not field offensive ground-attack missiles or air-to-ground munitions, ASDF pi lots have begun to practice dropping live bombs, done first in Guam in July 2007, using F-2s that are jointly produced by the United States and Japan. The ASDF has also moved to improve its aerial refueling capabilities, and to modernize its own fleet. Finally, the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) has considerable defensive and offensive powers and is the strongest part of Japan's military capabilities. It has a significant number of modern cruisers/destroyers, with the Kongo- and Atago-class destroyers also to be equipped with the Aegis Combat System that allows them to integrate and coordinate air defense networks over naval task forces. The MSDF also has 80 P-3C Orion aircraft for anti-submarine operations and maritime patrol in the region.

Looking more specifically at its aggregate defense expenditures as well as its standing across land, air, and naval mission capabilities, there is strong evidence that Japan's military power is oft en greatly underestimated. Our purpose in highlighting them is to suggest that, like conventional ones, Japan's space-based military capabilities also deserve attention as a cohesive whole. This is because, in line with the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)-which only underscores the importance of space assets and technologies to national defense-the SDF no doubt recognizes that its advantage over regional rivals will come not so much in the quantitative upgrading of conventional capabilities across its ser vices. Rather, it is bound to come in the technological and qualitative enhancements in space-based resources.

Such an analysis is especially valuable today as Japan is thought to have a much more effective military than it had in the postwar period-that is, in terms of internal management and organization, foreign integration, and work with the United States, and, of particular interest to us, use of intelligence and technology. As we attempt to show in the rest of the book, Japan's considerable military capabilities are made more considerable by the country's already advanced space technology prowess. Features like its reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, as well as the country's burgeoning ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, will continue to be upgraded and integrated into its military space infrastructure by domestic players. Therefore, like its conventional capabilities, Japan's space capabilities should not be underestimated, and deserve to be better understood by allies or rivals.

A second reason why it has been difficult to appreciate Japan's military capabilities in space is because any such cohesive emphasis has been absent at the national level, both in terms of strategy and organizational coherence. As we document more thoroughly in Chapters 2 and 3, from the time that Japan launched its historic Pencil rocket in 1955 to the passage of the Basic Space Law in 2008, there was much contestation over and many changes in the governance even of civilian space activities, let alone military oriented ones. Indeed the one element that was supposed to color all of Japan's space actitivites in relation to defense was the Diet's Peaceful Purposes Resolution (PPR) in 1969, which pointed in the opposite direction to space militarization in terms of official policy. Great care was taken by the government to express all its subsequent interpretations and policy changes under this rubric, and the emphasis was generally on the commercialization of space assets and the scientific explorations of the heavens. In de pen dent access to space was certainly part of the official rhetoric and policy, but any hint of its relation to boosting Japan's defenses was absent from public documents and statements. To be sure, the saga of Japan's spy satellites and BMD drew much attention, but these were treated almost as isolated developments in the larger debates about the peaceful purposes resolution and Japan's re-militarization rather than as discrete elements of a military space infrastructure.

By and large, what attention there was focused on the negative facets of Japan's civilian and commercial space activities: the lack of progression and failure to commercialize Japanese space technologies in global markets, the lack of space planning at the highest levels, mixed signals from top committees supposedly controlling space activities, endless reviews following depressingly familiar failures, a devastating downgrading of Japan's space activities to the second rank of national scientific priorities, and attacks on Japan's international space activities by a budget-conscious Ministry of Finance (MOF). Compounding these negatives was the fact that the research, development, and testing of specific space technologies, was spread across a morass of public institutions and private corporations that themselves went through successive bouts of changes. All this made it difficult to pinpoint, much less assess, the potential military applications of legitimate civilian space technologies. While this morass of players, especially on the public side, was oft en pinpointed as a source of national incoherence in space policy, it also had the effect of shielding the development of technologies from negative bud getary, political, or public attention. Component by component, even highly controversial militarized space technologies, such as potential re entry warheads or anti-satellite (ASAT) systems, continued to be researched, manufacturted, and tested under legitimate civilian uses and goals.


Excerpted from In Defense of Japan by Saadia M. Pekkanen Paul Kallender-Umezu Copyright © 2010 by Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Saadia M. Pekkanen is Job and Gertrud Tamaki Professor at the Jackson School of International Studies, and Adjunct Professor of Law, at the University of Washington, Seattle. Paul Kallender-Umezu is Japan Correspondent for Space News, and has been published widely in Japanese and domestic international media.

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