Government looks to end taboo on military research

Japan's military is prying open long-closed doors at university research labs, boosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's US-backed effort to cast off some of the country’s pacifist constraints, write Eric Pfanner and Chieko Tsuneoka for The Wall Street Journal.

Abe’s government says Japan needs to tap its best scientists to bolster its defences. US military officials, eager to make use of Japanese expertise in areas such as robotics and electronics, have encouraged the shift. Parliament is set to approve in the next few weeks the first direct research funding from the defence ministry to universities since the war, under one of two programmes started by Abe’s government that blur the line separating civilian and military research.

Critics say it marks a further erosion of the bedrock value – pacifism – on which Japan’s post-war society was built. But they concede they may be fighting a losing battle. Since World War II Japanese academics have broadly renounced research that could serve military ends, and many universities have banned the research outright, though it isn’t illegal. Now some professors are agreeing to such projects, and universities and scientific bodies are giving them greater latitude.
Full report on The Wall Street Journal site