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2008年5月12日 (月)



EDITORIAL: Basic law on use of space


The Cabinet Committee of the Lower House passed a bill Friday covering the active use of space for defense purposes and allowing Japan to deploy its own spy satellites. Although the Lower House of the Diet is controlled by the ruling coalition and the Upper House by the opposition, this bill is likely to breeze through passage in the Diet because it was initiated by a bipartisan group of legislators from the Liberal Democratic Party, its coalition partner New Komeito and the opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan).


breeze through=すいすいと動く

In stating the goals of space development, the bill includes the phrase, "in the interest of our country's national security."

This signifies a big shift in space policy, shelving a 1969 Diet resolution that reserved the use of space to "peaceful purposes."


Since that Diet resolution nearly 40 years ago, use of space has changed immensely. Many countries have launched military satellites.

The Self-Defense Forces already use information-gathering satellites, a nice term for spy satellites. The Japanese people no doubt understand the necessity of gathering intelligence via satellites to monitor North Korea's movements regarding its nuclear and missile programs.


Even so, the 1969 Diet resolution effectively constrained the SDF's use of satellites. The government did not place information-gathering satellites under the control of the SDF, but instead placed them under Cabinet Office control. The degree of satellite resolution was also limited to civilian standards.



The new basic law on outer space will not only confirm what has become reality, but also strip away these restrictions.


However, there has been little debate on what the country will gain or lose with the passing of this new law, nor about restrictions that should be placed on SDF activity in space.

The committee wrapped up its debate and passed the bill in just two hours. This is unacceptable--a sloppy step taken too easily and too quickly.


wrap up=うまく成立させる)(sloppy=ぞんざいな、だらしのない、不注意な)

When the bill becomes law, the SDF will gain its own satellites and be able to increase its satellite capability exponentially. Moreover, it will be allowed to send aloft its own early-warning satellite in a step geared toward missile defense, opening the door to use space for various military purposes.



However, the Cabinet Committee lawmakers tabling the bill did not address the need to put tangible restrictions in the bill. They merely kept repeating that space use would remain within the defense-only framework, quoting the phrase from the bill that says, "based on the peaceful principles of the Constitution."


The bill is also backed by business interests keen to stimulate Japan's space industry. With demand dwindling from the private sector, space contractors hope to see stable "public sector demand" to take its place.


But the military use of space is a huge issue; it brings into sharp focus the question of what kind of country Japan will become.  


Some argue that improved satellite surveillance capabilities will boost deterrence.

Yet, if Japan embarks upon the military use of space, will not tensions with neighboring countries increase? How will the huge development and deployment costs be funded? Isn't there danger that space development will be shrouded from view as "classified intelligence"? All these things must be considered together.


deterrence=抑止力)(tensions → tension)(shroud=覆い隠す)(classified intelligence=機密情報)

Another problem is that amid the general lack of public interest, this bill was tabled and co-sponsored by both the ruling parties and Minshuto.

That means it will likely become law without any serious debate.


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 10(IHT/Asahi: May 12,2008)

朝日新聞 5月10日号 (英語版 2008年5月12日発行)


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