Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Japan science council says drawing line between military, civil use technology difficult

The Science Council of Japan is seen in Tokyo's Minato Ward. (Mainichi/Ayumu Iwasaki)

TOKYO -- The Science Council of Japan (SCJ) has drawn up a statement claiming that it's become difficult to simply separate dual-use technology that can be applied to both military and civilian use from other technologies, and submitted the document to Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy Takayuki Kobayashi.

    The statement apparently represents the SCJ's views that, amid the growing significance of science and technology relating to national security, such as artificial intelligence and quantum technology, it is difficult to impose blanket restrictions on research by discerning the possibility of a technology being diverted to military use.

    In 2017, the SCJ released a statement regarding the Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency's subsidy program for research on dual-use technology, pointing out that the "funding program has many problems" as it could facilitate government intervention in research activities. Yet the council suggested that a screening system for such research be set up at universities and other bodies without banning it. In 1950 and 1967, the SCJ released statements that rejected scientific research for "war purposes."

    According to the SCJ, it has not changed its position on its past statements, including the 2017 manifesto. However, in recent years the potential for even basic research to be applied to military use among various other purposes is increasing. At a July 27 regular press conference, SCJ President Takaaki Kajita explained, "We have evolved our line of thinking in step with the times."

    Amid rising tensions between the United States and China, researchers on the ground are required to work on preventing important technologies from draining abroad in light of national security. In regard to dual-use technology, the Japanese government is set to start publicly soliciting applicants this fiscal year for a program to foster crucial technologies for economic security, with a total of some 500 billion yen (approx. $3.7 billion) slated to be funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. There are possibilities that research achievements under the program may contribute, as a consequence, to the development of defense equipment.

    In light of this move, the science council was sorting out its views on advanced scientific technologies including dual-use technology.

    (Japanese original by Tomohiro Ikeda, Science & Environment Department)

    Also in The Mainichi

    The Mainichi on social media