Japan considers missile warning system

Tokyo (Japan) – Japan is considering an early warning satellite that can detect missile launches in the wake of concerns about North Korea’s missile power.

The idea may be included in the draft of the government’s first comprehensive space strategy, which is expected to be announced in May.

The Yomiuri newspaper today quoted the draft as saying: “Seeing the move in April 2009 when North Korea launched a missile despite calls to refrain from the United Nations Security Council and the international community, the role of space has heightened compared to before.”

North Korea launched a rocket on April 5, claiming it was simply a communications satellite. But this prompted outrage in Japan, where it was widely seen as a barely-disguised missile test – a view supported by the US and Korea. A poll found that 88 percent of Japanese said the launch made them feel insecure, and there were calls for Japan to consider launching an early warning satellite and upgrade its missile shield.

Japan introduced a new law last year allowing military use of space, ending a decades-old pacifist policy. The law, which allows the military to launch its own satellites for spying and warn of missile launches but rules out offensive weapons in space, opened ways for the nation’s space industry to compete globally.