The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force conducts a drill to deploy Patriot Advanced Capability-3 ballistic missile interceptors in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, western Japan, on March 5, 2020, three days after North Korea launched two projectiles, believed to be short-range ballistic missiles. (Kyodo)
LOS ANGELES – This summer has been notable for Japan’s missile and missile defense policy. On June 25, Defense Minister Taro Kono announced the cancellation of the planned acquisition and deployment of the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system. Around the same time, the Liberal Democratic Party established a study team looking at whether Japan should adopt enemy base strike capabilities. Officials will reportedly set a new policy direction in September that could cover missile strike capabilities and the potential for integrated air and missile defense.
These developments extend to the space domain. On June 30, Japan’s Cabinet approved the newest version of the country’s national space policy. Revised for the first time in five years, it says that, in cooperation with the United States, Japan will study small-satellite constellations with infrared sensors for missile warning. Studying missile warning satellites fits within a flurry of recent missile and missile defense activity in Japan, but it also reflects long-term trends. The country has been on a gradual shift toward space security since the 1980s, when Japan first started acquiring imagery for its military. The new space policy is not overtly hawkish. It does not characterize China as a threat or competitor, nor does it mention North Korea. And