|Last year, a must read book surfaced for those of us who track the |
complex world of the Japanese space sector. "In Defense of Japan: From
the Market to the Military in Space Policy," by Saadia Pekkanen and
Paul Kallendar-Umezu (published by Stanford University Press, ISBN
080470063X) may not be the definitive work on this subject, but this
writer is hard pressed indeed to identify any recent book in English
that comes close to covering as much ground as this one does.
The bottom line is that anyone who looks closely at what Japan is doing
in space might want to look again - this time from the perspective of
China and Korea. Where Japan appears to pursue peaceful space
experiments, for example, the seeds for prototype space bombers akin to
those under development for the U.S. "Prompt Global Strike" program may
Sure, skeptics might counter, the realm of space is awash in
dual-purpose platforms, and anyone can extract a military purpose or
profile from what is probably a conventional scientific and research
This book takes such skepticism in stride and leaves it up to the
readers to decide if the defense-oriented pattern that permeates the
Japanese space sector is merely a coincidence or a Ministry of Defense
This book challenges the reader by addressing the subject as it
pertains both to the broader subject of Japanese remilitarization -
enabled by political and cultural shifts - as well as the possible
emergence of a nuclear-weaponized Japan.
The book requires a basic understanding of the Japanese institutional,
historical, and legal forces at work.
And because so much emphasis is placed on the role of a few elite
Japanese corporations as the key catalysts in the evolving process, it
also helps to understand their role as defense contractors in areas
other than space.
Add it all up, and you are presented with rather compelling evidence.
Whether or not you accept the premise that Japan is a military space
power today, this book reminds you constantly that regardless of which
party is in power - DPJ or LDP - Japan's militarization of space assets
is likely to remain on auto-pilot for decades to come.
The book does offer an abundance of charts which are extremely valuable
unto themselves. More than 80 pages of notes provide the reader with
At the same time, the reader is left to wonder where exactly in the
Ministry of Defense are the points of intersection when it comes to the
layering of the subgroups which are assigned to these various space
projects by the big corporations - both U.S. and Japanese - that
receive so much attention in this 377-page volume.
Also, the authors state that, "the push toward smaller satellites
remains a work in progress" before proceeding to discuss all the small
satellite projects now underway in Japanese universities, for example.
Years ago, in one of my earliest articles on the Japanese space
program, "A Sleeper in the Space Race" (Proceedings of the U.S. Naval
Institute, July 1987), the launch of Japan's small Marine Observation
Satellite -1 (MOS-1) was mentioned as an example of Japanese space
engineering prowess. So, what is a work in progress apparently spans decades.
Of course, I also predicted in 1987 that the steady progress of the
Japanese launch sector would certainly deprive the Soviets of
opportunities to launch payloads from the West. I was certainly proven
wrong over time.
And yet, the authors rightfully assert that the inability of the
Japanese to capitalize on the commercial launch and payload business
contributed enormously to the steady shift by Japanese space sector
companies to a shared defense-oriented business plan. The recent sale
of Japanese-built satellites to Turksat remain the exception and not
the rule. Hopefully, Japan can sell some more satellites soon.
So, there is plenty of time left this summer for you to add this book
to your must read list. And for those who need a little Japanese space
trivia to spur you along, here it is.
Who was the first Japanese to fly in space?
Toyohiro Akiyama, a reporter for TBS who went up on the Russian Soyuz
in 1990. Here we are more than 20 years later, and soon everyone going
up will have to carry a ticket issued by the Russians.