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Japan To Launch Spy Satellites

December 22, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s Cabinet approved a plan Tuesday to launch four surveillance satellites by 2002 in an apparent move to monitor North Korea’s weapons program.

Proposals for Japan to build a multipurpose spy satellite have gained momentum since the launch in August of a North Korean rocket.

Japan relied on information from the U.S. military to monitor the Aug. 31 firing of the rocket, which flew over Japan before landing in the Pacific Ocean.

Last week, a Russian news report cited Russian Defense Ministry officials as saying that North Korea is planning another test.

The United States says North Korea has also begun construction of a suspected underground nuclear-related facility at Keumjang-ri, 25 miles northeast of the North’s main nuclear complex of Yongbyon.

The reclusive communist states says the new facility is for civilian use and has refused a U.S. demand that it allow unconditional inspection there.

On Monday, the Japanese Finance Ministry slated $74.1 million in research spending on the surveillance satellite project for the next fiscal year, which begins April 1.

The sum will include $58.6 million for technology studies by the Science and Technology Agency, said agency official Masaaki Nishijo.

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