Japan’s satellite program signals distrust of U.S.

China Military Online
Huang Panyue

By Gong Chunke

BEIJING, Nov. 3 (ChinaMil) -- Japan launched into orbit its fourth positioning and navigational satellite in October 2017, which marked new progress on Japan's satellite positioning and navigation capability.

The Satellite can help Unnamed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) land in target areas the size of a matchbox, and it also can guide missiles to destroy the Democratic Republic of Korea’s missile launching site more precisely.

Japan's satellite navigation and positioning system is called the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), which currently has three satellites in orbit, and the newly launched fourth satellite will come into use with the other three in April next year.

Then, Japan will have its own global positioning and navigation system, covering the areas surrounding Japan, including the Korean Peninsula.

Although QZSS only covers the local area, it provides the most precise positioning data. GPS, which has the most users in the world today, is precise to the level of meter, but QZSS is precise to the level of centimeter.

Moreover, Japan plans to launch another three satellites between 2018 and 2023, when the seven satellites in total will further complement the positioning network and enhance the navigation function.

When announcing its purpose of developing the more advanced and independent satellite navigation and positioning system, Japan was as evasive as it was when talking about the military-civilian development program that might concern defense subjects, saying that it will be used in conjunction with GPS before it is able to operate independently.

But this is obviously not convincing. At present QZSS is obviously of higher quality than GPS. Therefore, the Japanese government claimed the service is to solve the problem that "GPS signals are sometimes blocked by tall buildings in the densely populated urban areas".

The restriction of the peaceful constitution and the attempt to revise the constitution and expand the military urge Japan to promote the military-civilian integration.

Currently Japan has four reconnaissance satellites to provide information for the self-defense forces of the Defense Ministry.

These satellites are unrelated to QZSS, but that doesn't mean QZSS won't be used for military expansion.

An official in the Space Policy Committee of Japanese government admitted that Japan's QZSS can serve as a backup system for the military in case the US system is damaged or prohibited for Japan.

This conclusion indicates that the Japanese government and its self-defense forces have their qualms about the security protection provided by the US.

The Standard Missile - 3 (SM-3) missile co-developed by Japan and the US had a failed test, and US Navy's Aegis vessels are crashed or stranded frequently.

Although the US is trying hard to cover up the fact that this protective umbrella is full of holes, Japan is beginning to wonder whether this ally can be counted on at critical moments. Already it is not so reliable on the technical side, will it add fuel to flame when Japan is hit?

Regarding the civilian service provided by GPS, Japan expressed its mistrust by saying that "signals are blocked in densely populated areas", and defense experts and research institutes in Japan made it clear that QZSS is aimed to give Japan a bigger control over its own weapons and equipment and improve its military independence.

From the joint development of SM-3 to the independent development of QZSS, Japan has made constant breakthroughs in constitutional revision and military expansion since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power.

From 1969 to 2008, Japan proactively prohibited its own space development for military purpose, which was a reflection of its respect to the peaceful constitution in the high-end military area.

But in 2015, Tokyo decided to make defending national security an objective of the space policy, and said the previous space ban has cost Japan "40 years".

It is foreseeable that as the program of QZSS research, development and use continues, Japan will go farther down the path of military expansion and constitutional revision, and America's decline and Japan's mistrust in it will make Japan even more ambitious.

It will even seek greater armed forces and weapon and equipment control under the disguise of the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula and the island dispute, thus walking on a more dangerous road.

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