Under US Pressure, Tokyo Shelves Satellite Program
JAPAN'S SPACE INDUSTRY
IN the odd mix of cooperation and competition between their two space programs, Japan is learning how much the outstretched hand of the United States giveth - and how much it taketh away. A threat of trade retaliation by the US has forced Japan to shelve a joint government-private satellite program, known as CS-4. The program would have helped Japan develop its own satellite industry by preventing bids from foreign firms.
But Japan is also being reminded this month about its growing links with US space projects in the 1990s.
On April 24, the country's National Space Development Agency (NASDA) is expected to select scientist Mamoru Mouri to be the first Japanese to fly on the US space shuttle.
This selection of a Japanese ``payload specialist,'' however, is being overshadowed by lingering resentment in Tokyo that the US bullied Japan into curtailing government support for the budding satellite industry.
``Some people believed the US wants to stop our space industry,'' says Shinichi Nakayama, director of international space affairs at the Science and Technology Agency. ``But we have to bend to the US.''
For Japan's three big companies involved in the satellite business - Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, and Toshiba - the agreement with the US knocks their plans off course. They will lose valuable experience by not being involved in at least two CS-4 satellites.
Japan's concession to the US will ``drastically reduce our chances for satellite development,'' says an NEC official. ``The pace at which we can catch up [to the US] will naturally slow down.''
The US wanted the CS-4 project to be open for foreign bidding, based on the US claim that the satellite was designed for more than just research, but also would have eventual commercial use. US satellitemakers are years ahead of their Japanese counterparts.
But instead of agreeing to open the project, Japan simply dropped it.
``We maintain our sovereign right to secure our own independent space policy,'' a foreign ministry official says. ``We didn't give away anything.'' The few research aspects of the CS-4 will now be blended into a purely research-oriented satellite, known as EDRTS.
The US demand was made last April under the Super 301 provision of the 1988 US trade act.
One incentive for Japan to settle, says a US official, was that it feared that its new space launch rocket, H-2, might also be targeted under Super 301.
The satellite agreement itself will not be signed until late April, although the ``principles'' of the pact were settled two weeks ago.