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  • In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy
  • Walter E. Grunden (bio)
In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy. By Saadia M. Pekkanen and Paul Kallender-Umezu. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2010. Pp. xxv+377. $55.

Japan has been a world leader in science and technology for several decades now, but few may realize that it has also become a premier military power in space. Such is the revelation presented by authors Saadia M. Pekkanen and Paul Kallender-Umezu in this detailed study of Japan’s space development policy. Pekkanen, the Job and Gertrud Tamaki Professor at the Jackson School of International Studies and adjunct professor of law at the University of Washington, Seattle, and her coauthor, Paul Kallender-Umezu, a correspondent for Space News, forcefully argue that “Japan has the technical wherewithal to be marked as a military space power and now has placed national security as the centerpiece of its space development strategy” (p. xii). Those familiar with Japanese history may wonder how this could be, particularly in light of Article 9 of Japan’s postwar constitution, which renounces war and ostensibly prohibits that nation from developing the capacity to wage war. The authors argue that the dual-use nature of some space technologies—such as launch vehicles and satellites—allowed Japan to make the rapid adaptation from commercial to military applications.

The authors contend that the transition “from the market to the military” was prompted largely by weak commercial demand in a highly competitive arena, which forced the Japanese government to intervene as a primary consumer. Timing also was critical. The “shock” of North Korea test-firing a new generation of long-range missiles (i.e., Taepodong) over Japan in 1998, in particular, had a deep and profound influence on the “military space orientation” of Japan’s space development policy, thus altering its trajectory “toward a national security component” (p. 131). The authors firmly situate this military turn within the turbulent geopolitical context of the last two decades, which have witnessed two Gulf Wars, the events of 9/11, the ensuing war on terror, and, closer to home for Japan, the increased bellicosity of North Korea and the rapid growth of China into a global economic and military power.

Because of its contemporary subject matter, the book is based largely on research in more journalistic-type sources, such as newspapers, space industry periodicals, interviews with policymakers, and published government reports. There is also considerable dependence on information drawn from official government websites. Since there are so few historical monographs or articles published on this subject, this study is especially informative and welcome.

The book’s first three chapters examine the market-to-military trend, outline the evolution of Japan’s space development policy, and identify the key actors—both public and private—who played critical roles in the formation [End Page 949] and implementation of recent space policy. The next four chapters provide a historical overview of the development and deployment of the technologies central to Japan’s commercialization and militarization of space, including launch vehicles, satellites, spacecraft, and a promising array of “emerging” technologies, such as air-launched rockets capable of reaching orbit, a ballistic-missile defense system, reusable launch vehicles, and a new generation of communications and spy satellites. Numerous tables, illustrations, charts, and graphs are included providing technical specifications, timelines, and data that often present a comparative context for assessing Japan’s development vis-à-vis that of the United States, Russia, China, and others.

There is an abundance of technical information here to satisfy readers with that particular interest, and the combination of Pekkanen’s legal expertise coupled with Kallender-Umezu’s knowledge of Japan’s space industry results in a richly detailed and insightful policy analysis that very few scholars in the field today could produce on their own. While the book is an excellent work of technical journalism and policy analysis within a legal framework, however, it leaves something to be desired as history. Readers of Technology and Culture may find discussions of culture too few and far between to sustain their interest. Too often, individual actors are...


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pp. 949-950
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