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Japan Plans Missile Defense Warning Satellites

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.
by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) May 9, 2008
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda belied his mild-manner low-key image Friday when he OK'd a new measure that would transform Japan's decades-old policy supporting the demilitarization of space.

The Cabinet Committee of the main chamber of the Japanese Parliament, or Diet, Friday approved legislation that would allow Japan to deploy military systems in space for defensive purposes.

The legislation will now move forward for consideration by the whole lower chamber, but given the majority still enjoyed there by Fukuda's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, it is expected to be quickly approved, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported.

The measure confirms that the LDP remains committed to energetically pushing ahead with developing comprehensive ballistic missile defenses for the densely populated island nation as quickly as possible.

Fukuda's coalition ally Komeito and even the most powerful and popular opposition group, Minshuto -- the Democratic Party -- also support the legislation, revealing the breadth and strength of the national consensus behind it, the Asahi Shimbun said.

The move was also striking because it took place while Chinese President Hu Jintao was visiting Japan.

Relations between Japan and its giant neighbor have been increasingly strained over most of the past decade, largely because Fukuda's two predecessors, hard-charging and visionary Junichiro Koizumi, who ruled Japan for five years, and his successor Shinzo Abe, were both determined to forge far closer ties with the United States and to develop comprehensive advanced ballistic missile defenses as quickly as possible.

Fukuda was approved by the inner circle of his party as a return to the more traditional, cautious consensus leadership that has characterized the LDP for most of the past half century.

But his willingness to risk anger Hu in order to clear the way for the deployment of space-based monitoring systems that could immediately detect missile attacks against Japan indicated that at least on BMD issues, he is following closely in his predecessors' footsteps.

Japan is particularly concerned about the nuclear-capable ballistic threat it faces from nearby North Korea, across the Sea of Japan.

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