Japan Launches Spy Satellite, Eyes Neighbor's Activities

Japan launched another spy satellite Monday in an increased effort to keep tabs on its Asian neighbors.

The satellite can snap pictures of Earth in all weather conditions, including rain and fog. The device can also capture images in the dark.

Japanese officials maintain that the satellite is for spotting natural disasters like the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that stuck the island nation in March.

"The project is aimed at boosting security and monitoring land in case of sizable natural disasters like the one in March," an unnamed government told AFP.

"If everything goes smoothly, it will be the first radar satellite under the program," the official said. "With the radar satellite, we can introduce wider usage of the system."

“Boosting security” is likely the main objective of the launch of the second satellite, observers claim.

In 1998, North Korea sparked international fears when it tested a missile, launching it over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

Japan quickly sent its first spy satellite into space after the incident, launching in 2003. Another all-weather satellite could be launched as soon as 2012.

It is unclear why the satellites are being launched in quick secession.

Japan has four satellites in space that monitor activity on Earth, although officials have been silent on what is being watched and how sophistication of the equipment.

The latest launch marks the second “spy” satellite put into orbit this year.

The satellite cost more than $5.15 billion to develop and another $1.28 billion to be launch into space, according to Japanese publication The Mainichi.

JAXA, Japan’s space agency, said the satellite is functioning properly after a successful launch from Tanegashima, an island in southern Japan, according to reports.

The last launch by Japan was in September.

The satellite marks the latest launch in an increasing space-focused Asia. Both China and India are among the countries who are developing space-based programs and increasing military budgets in recent years, according to reports.

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