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

In This Review

In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy
By Saadia Pekkanen,Paul Kallender-Umezu
Stanford University Press, 2010
408 pp. $55.00

In a shift little noticed outside professional military circles, in the last decade Japan has quietly developed a suite of cutting-edge military space technologies -- rockets, satellites, and spacecraft -- that were originally designed for commercial applications. The subject of this book is highly technical: the list of acronyms is 14 pages long, and some passages are hard going for a nonspecialist. 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. The emphasis of In Defense of Japan, however, is on the industries that pushed military applications when they could not make money from commercial projects. Today, in addition to ballistic missile defense capabilities developed in cooperation with the United States, Japan is working on reusable launch vehicles (that is, space planes); satellites that detect missiles and help with navigation, communication, and targeting; warhead reentry technologies that can advance the use of missiles in warfare; unmanned aerial vehicles; and technologies for "space situational awareness," which reveal a concern about possible future conflict in space. It is too soon to count Japan out in the arms race in Asia.