Japan's defense forces are to be allowed to operate in space for the first time as they try to counter military expansion in North Korea and China.
A committee of the Japanese parliament has voted to revise the law which until now has prevented the use of space for military purposes.
Antarctica from space
(credit "Jill & Jason" through Flickr)
The proposed law specifies that any use must be "non-aggressive", but Japan is concerned about China, which is already trying to counter the huge lead that the United States has in space warfare technology.
The timing is embarrassing for President Hu Jintao of China, who is visiting Japan on a five-day tour aimed at cementing the improvement in relations between the two Asian rivals.
The Japanese military claims the current restriction, introduced in 1969, puts it at a disadvantage, particularly in its use of spy satellites.
Although Japan has surveillance satellites, they are operated by a civilian department answering to the prime minister, which limits their usefulness.
What Has This Got to do with Whaling?
According to sources in Japan the Japanese government will be able to use military satellites to monitor the movements of anti-whaling vessels in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary.
"This makes our job of disrupting their illegal whaling activities much more difficult," said Captain Paul Watson. "But then again it has always been difficult trying to stop a major economic power with unlimited resources from illegally slaughtering the endangered and protected whales of the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. But then again if this job were easy, everybody would be down here trying to stop these killers. We intend to continue doing what millions of people around the world would like to do - we intend to save as many whales as possible with the resources available to us."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is presently preparing its fifth campaign to intervene against illegal Japanese whaling activities in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary.
The society is looking for sponsors to help secure fuel for the return to the remote waters of Antarctica."We will need at least 500 tons of fuel to stop them for the entire season," said Sea Shepherd Executive Director Kim McCoy. "With fuel costs rising each day, we have an uncertain budget but it looks like we will have to raise at least $750,000 for fuel and oil for this campaign."