Satellites let Japan, Allies know more about North Korea than Pyongyang

09/25/2011
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TOKYO (majirox news) — Japan’s latest information gathering satellite lifted off into orbit among a traffic jam of other launches last week, including the United States and China, particularly above North Korea.

Although Japan has launched six “information gathering satellites” (IGS) since 2003, this satellite will be the fourth optical satellite equipped with highly sensitivity cameras.

“Optical resolution on board cameras is 60 centimeters,” said a spokesman of Japan’s Ministry of Defense. “In other words, we should be able to interpret what any object is above that size. In keeping with Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution, this is roughly the same level of resolution that commercial satellites are capable.”

The Chinese won’t feel limited by the same types of restrictions. A few days before Japan’s satellite lifted off, China launched the Chinasat 1A Sept. 18, the ninth successful Chinese launch this year.

The Space Flight Now Web site said, “It’s thought that this satellite is for use by the Chinese military and has both UHF and optical capabilities. The satellite should overlap much of the area that Japan’s newest space satellite is covering, as well as covering Japan itself.”

Neatly bracketing the Japanese launch the US Air Force Tacsat 4 is scheduled to take off from Kodiak, Alaska on Sept. 27. Its orbit sweeps in a broad arc over northeast and central Asia, bringing to bear a battery of 10 UHF antennas on communications throughout the area.

The collection of optical, infrared, UHF and other monitoring satellites now floating above North Korea and Northern China adds up to an impressive and almost overwhelming amount of data being fed to Japan and its allies. Little can be hidden anymore. Everything from electric generation to sweet potato crops is under constant observation.

One can probably turn on a computer monitor in the situation room of the Prime Minister’s residence in Tokyo, and count the number of cars on the highway in Pyongyang. Ironically, Japan and the United States may now have better information on North Korea’s economy and economic potential than the rulers of North Korea themselves do.

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