Chief Cabinet Secretary, Liberal Democratic Party of
is in the midst of a sweeping overhaul of its space management structure mandated by the Basic Law for Space Activities, which was passed by the parliament in May. The law consolidates Japanese space oversight under a single cabinet-level office and lifts a longstanding ban on using satellites for military purposes.
As a key architect of what is commonly referred to as the Basic Law, and now arguably Japan’s second most powerful politician, Takeo Kawamura will have his fingerprints on whatever results from the changes now being implemented.
A member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Kawamura was Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology – with nominal oversight of most government space activities – when a Japanese H-2A rocket carrying two military reconnaissance satellites failed in November 2003. It was in the aftermath of that accident that Kawamura came to truly appreciate the strategic value of space assets and set about reforming what he saw as
‘s overly bureaucratic space management structure.
The result was the Basic Law, which he not only laid the groundwork for but also helped usher through
‘s parliament, or Diet. Now he will run the Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy, the new cabinet-level office mandated by the Basic Law that will be responsible for space activities.
Kawamura is an LDP veteran who has held senior posts including senior vice minister of justice and head of public relations. He rose to chief cabinet secretary,
‘s minister of state, in the new government Sept. 24, shortly after speaking with Space News correspondent Paul Kallender-Umezu.
‘s launch of a missile over Japanese territory in 1998 led to the Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) reconnaissance program. Did this incident sow the seeds for the drafting and eventual passage of the Basic Law?
This incident did have a strong impact, but it was not the only factor. National security was part of the motivation, and from a wider point of view in terms of securing new sources of energy, our agricultural policy, international cooperation, and disaster prevention and monitoring, we needed to have a national strategy for the role of space dealing with these issues.
What role did the loss of two IGS satellites in the H-2A accident play in the process?
This accident was the result of a failure of responsibility and a lack of strategic planning. In the aftermath of the accident I came to realize that there was no organization in control and exercising leadership in space development in
. I also felt there was a historical willingness to rely on the bureaucracy to manage things. These factors combined to have an extremely deleterious effect on satellite development. Rocket development was badly affected and the failure had a big effect on the IGS. If the IGS program had been developed or organized as part of a national strategy we could have had an alternative backup plan such as replacement satellites on a different rocket. So you could say the failure had a big impact.
‘s growing space and military capability a factor?
‘s space program has grown fast and dramatically and has become a powerful part of national strategic planning because space development is a national priority. Also,
is trying to gain the initiative for space development with the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization that it created and is trying to bring all Asian countries into to try to gain power.
is becoming a big rival to Japan both in terms of Asian diplomacy and space strategy, make no mistake about that. In
, our space development focus has been on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). We have the Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum, but this is not backed by the government, just by the independent administrative institution – JAXA.
Let me make it clear that we have nothing against all this, and we don’t see
as an opponent. But, on the other hand, when it comes to defense and military funding, the real level of funding is unclear and we find this very disturbing and quite threatening. Related to this, we don’t know what the real spending on space development is either. We feel there is a lot being invested in that we don’t know about.
We aren’t so worried about
‘s manned space program, however. Whether or not
should have its own manned space program is always the subject of debate and it has those in favor and those opposed.
Where do you stand in that debate?
My thinking about developing our own manned space program is not so positive. We are already involved in the international space station; we would like to do whatever we can do for that in terms of international cooperation.
The IGS satellites have always been run by the Cabinet Secretariat. Will that program remain separate from the new management structure?
We are going to make a Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy, and in that the IGS development budget, strategy and operations will all be discussed and argued, and decisions will be taken. I think the IGS project may be put into Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy control.
What is, or should be,
‘s top priority in terms of military space?
Up until now missile defense has been regarded as essential to Japan’s defense, and in this regard we have so far relied on the
for missile warning. Whether we develop our own missile warning satellite system is now a priority issue. We will discuss this. But the budget is tight. The reason why the Basic Law has garnered so much attention is that we have lifted the over-restrictive nonmilitary-purposes resolution and so from now on we can use space for defensive military purposes. We will be paying a lot of attention to this from now on. Right now the Ministry of Defense is preparing its Mid-Term Defense Plan and its use of space strategy will be introduced. So the defensive use of space is being discussed from various angles.
It has been suggested that the Basic Law for Space Activities will lead to a stronger civilian space program. Do you agree?
One of the major purposes of this law was to change the direction of
‘s space activities away from research and development and toward industrialization. There are two main aspects to this law – national security and the industrialization of space. The agenda for industrializing will definitely be discussed and put into practice. This will strengthen both our research and development and long-term human resource development, which is essential. Regarding the national security aspect, this not only concerns defense, but also disaster monitoring and mitigation and, for example, crop monitoring. We’ve entered an era when space monitoring should be used to monitor
‘s agriculture. So we have to industrialize overall generally.
competitive in the global commercial satellite market part of the industrialization agenda?
This is a major issue. The industry will get into commercial competition and the government will back them up. The government is probably going to help control prices of all space products, including various related services, and make it easier for companies to get into the commercial market.
What do you consider an appropriate space budget for
over the next five to 10 years?
budget still does not amount to $2 billion, and even counting up the utilization budget and everything else, our total space-related budget doesn’t amount to anything near $3 billion.
I won’t say this is ideal but we should think about at least doubling the funding. I think space science should account for 25 percent of the space budget.
have any major new international cooperative initiatives in the works?
We have approached
to propose cooperation with positioning satellite technology with the Quazi Zenith Satellite System. We are trying to establish a cooperation framework with
. Especially with positioning, when you launch into the same area it does the same work, so we are suggesting cooperation.
is also putting a lot of effort into space development now.
We haven’t gotten an official reply to our proposals yet, but we have made several official approaches.
Do you envision a single budget for space that will include civil and military programs?
The budget will probably be unified.
How big could the military space budget grow over the next five years?
The space-related budget in the Ministry of Defense is minimal; it will be about 15 percent of the entire budget.
continue developing the long-delayed Galaxy Express, or GX, launcher?
The reason for the GX rocket being delayed was primarily the H-2A failure, which took priority in terms of budget. I think we should continue to prepare it as a backup launcher. But the final decision on what to do will be made by the new Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy.