With a successful launch of the last of a fleet of four reconnaissance satellites, Japan has finally managed to realize a decade of hard work aimed at creating a network of spy satellites that can focus, peer, and poke any place in the world. With this capability, Japan has now major intelligence capability and has arrived as a major player in the accelerating space race. This capability will also reduce Tokyo's reliance on the US to provide it intelligence data.
Japan had to go through many crises to get to this point including project delays, technical snags, mid-air explosions, and weather induced delays. Engrossed in an unadvertised and unspoken space race with China, Japan had seen Beijing pull ahead with sending humans into space and a satellite destroying weapon. India has also made significant development in military and civilian rocket technology and even lesser forces such as Pakistan has been testing several missiles. Most importantly, the uncertainties caused by North Korean nuclear and missile programs have also out-paced Japan's peaceful programs.
These military programs have influenced Japan's goals in space which was initiated in 1969. There is also a changing mindset in Japan demanding more military involvement with a defensive angle. Last year's nuclear test by Pyongyang has also started a debate within Japan to become a nuclear power. Also, Tokyo is also chasing Beijing's direction to launch manned space flights.
Many observers have criticized the quality of the satellites which may be replaced by 2009.