Japan will create a new military research centre, looking to exploit civilian technologies with defence potential and moving another step away from its Pacifist post Second World War constitution.
Dubbed JARPA, for the concept’s resemblance of the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the venture is largely driven by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who wants the country to loosen the self-imposed strictly anti-military policy that has been in place for the past six decades since the end of the Second World War.
Japan’s Cabinet Office, which will oversee the programme, is now negotiating the funding with the Ministry of Finance, foreseen to be included into a draft budget for the next fiscal year starting in April.
Compared with its American counterpart and inspiration DARPA, famous among others for facilitating the creation of Internet, the budget of the Japanese centre is expected to be rather modest.
Japan hopes it will, in the first place, inspire successful civilian companies such as consumer electronics firm Sharp, ceramic component maker Kyocera or Japan’s universities to consider finding application for their technologies in the military field.
"We have DARPA of the United States in mind, but it does not mean we are creating another DARPA," said Science and Technology Minister Ichita Yamamoto, explaining the project will include security but it is not solely to be meant to create military technology.
"The starting point is not to develop military applications, but civilian projects that may eventually have military uses," said Satoshi Tsuzukibashi of the defence-production committee at business lobby Keidanren.
"It's not pure military," he said. But "the concept is high risk, high impact, like DARPA".
Until today, research into weapons systems in Japan has been the responsibility of the Defence Ministry's Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI), whose latest big project is the development of a prototype stealth jet fighter scheduled for a maiden flight in 2014.
In the recent years, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe has been raising defence spendings and sought to ease the country’s self-imposed ban on weapons exports and revise an interpretation of the constitution that prohibits the country from militarily aiding an ally under attack.