TOKYO Nov 13 Japan is finalising a budget for a
new command centre for cutting-edge research modelled after the
U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to try to
tap a broad swathe of civilian technologies with potential
The planned research programme is another symbol of hawkish
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to bolster Japan's military as
he seeks to make it less bound by the limits of the pacifist
Besides raising defence spending modestly after years of
declines, Abe is seeking to ease Japan'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.
Funding is not yet decided, but it will likely pale in
comparison to the annual $2.8 billion for DARPA, an agency best
known for helping create the Internet. DARPA aims to "prevent
strategic surprise" by American's enemies and "create strategic
surprise for U.S. adversaries."
Japan's Cabinet Office, which will oversee the programme, is
negotiating with the Finance Ministry on the scale of the
funding, government officials familiar with the process told
Reuters. It will be included in a draft budget for the fiscal
year from April, which will be approved by Abe's cabinet in late
"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.
The project will include security but it is not solely to be
meant to create military technology, Yamamoto told a news
conference last week.
Unlike DARPA, which is within the Pentagon, the Japanese
programme - already dubbed "JARPA" by some - is to be overseen
by the Cabinet Office.
"The starting point is not to develop military applications,
but civilian projects that may have 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."
Research into weapons systems has for the past six decades
been the responsibility of the Defense Ministry's Technical
Research and Development Institute (TRDI), whose latest big
project is to build a prototype stealth jet fighter than may fly
as soon as next year. TRDI's budget for this fiscal year climbed
55 percent to 166 billion yen ($1.67 billion).
DARPA funds a wider range of research, including space
technology. It developed an early version of the Internet known
as ARPANET and has also worked on controversial projects such as
Total Information Awareness, a surveillance technology capable
of gathering huge amounts of data on citizens.
Defence experts said Japan's planned programme could help
tap technologies developed by companies such as consumer
electronics firm Sharp Corp or ceramic component maker
Kyocera Corp which, unlike traditional defence
contractors such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd,
have tended to shy away from military research.
Japanese universities have also mostly shunned research for
"This might be a strategy to demilitarise TRDI and gain
access to 'pacifist' corporations that don't want to be
'merchants of death'," said an expert in U.S.-Japan security
The programme could also give Japan a bigger bang for its
research buck, a welcome outcome given the country's huge public
"The problem in this country is that the distinction between
military and non-military is so strict that these (research)
activities have not been coordinated," said Narushige
Michishita, a security expert at the National Graduate Institute
for Policy Studies.
"But now they will be working together and economies of
scale and efficiency hopefully will be boosted. It will never be
DARPA, but we will do a better job with given resources."
($1 = 99.5550 Japanese yen)
(Additional reporting by Linda Sieg, Tetsushi Kajimoto and
Yoshifumi Takemoto; Writing by Linda Sieg, Editing by Raju