TOKYO — The Cabinet today announced its decision to allow Japanese private firms and public institutions to take part in the research phase of the U.S. "Star Wars" space weapons program.
Japan's opposition Socialist Party immediately assailed the decision as an outright breach of a parliamentary resolution opposing the deployment of space-based arms.
Defense Minister Yuko Kurihara said after a special Cabinet session that the government had decided to go ahead with talks with the United States with the understanding that Japan would participate in the project's research activities only.
Asked whether he personally was satisfied with the decision, he said, "I am just a member of the Cabinet and of course I support what the Cabinet decides."
The United States has already reached agreements with Britain, West Germany and Israel on participation in the project's research phase, which has spawned billions of dollars of study work on advanced lasers, space-based mirrors, high-velocity projectiles and devices to detect enemy missiles and warheads.
The Cabinet's announcement allows Japanese private companies and government-affiliated research groups to participate in research on the project, officially called the Strategic Defense Initiative.
Supporters of the program have said that research does not necessarily mean deployment and that Japan could benefit from the technological developments in the program.
They also said Japan would be hampered in competitive bidding for Pentagon contracts if Japan did not participate.
Takeshi Araki, mayor of Hiroshima, the first city hit by an atomic bomb, issued a statement saying, "We are worried about expansion of nuclear strategy into space in the name of research."
The Federation of Economic Organizations, composed of 850 major corporations, however, said in a statement that the government's decision "would be valued from the standpoint of improving Japan-U.S. relations and strengthening solidarity of the Western camp."
U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger formally requested Japan's participation in March, 1985. Japan sent three delegations to the United States to look into the "Star Wars" program.
A Cabinet-level delegation investigated the program and urged that Japan take part, saying "there would be a possibility of a large influence on improving our country's related technology standards if Japan participated."