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The Case of Japan – The Diplomat


Flash point | Protect | East Asia

Japan has steadily increased its military involvement in space, albeit in a defensive stance.

As one of the world’s most technologically advanced societies, Japan depends on space accessibility like any other country in the world. Like the United States and Western Europe, the Japanese economy requires distance-based communications technology to weave its industrial fabric together. Indeed, by some estimates, Japan has the fourth most orbital satellite in the world. Although the Japan Self-Defense Forces do not operate in the same geographical range as their US or European counterparts, they still require satellite technology for communication and surveillance purposes.

As a result, Japan has continuously strengthened its military institution to participate in space, allowing the Ministry of Defense to cooperate with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the civilian space agency, first in 2012. Japan also established the Space Operations Squadron (SOS) in the Air Defense Force in May 2020, which is scheduled to ready for operation by 2023. The squadron will have 100 members by the time it stands up. The squadron’s portfolio, which appears to most closely resemble the former US Air Force’s Space Command, includes communications with US, German, and French space organizations.

As defined so far, the responsibilities of the Space Operations Squadron will be predominantly defensive, including monitoring satellites and space debris to avoid collisions, as well as surveillance. foreign satellites are likely to be hostile. Japan did not conduct an anti-satellite test and it is not clear how the development of anti-satellite attack technology will be within Japan’s constitutional framework, but the legacy of World War II follows. customs remain in East Asia and it is difficult to imagine that an ASAT test would be well received both inside and outside Japan. However, it is not difficult to imagine that Japan’s SOS could benefitfully share responsibility with the United States Space Force in ways that could enhance its spatial coping capabilities – as is the case. Outlined in the figure below, outlining a space situational awareness (SSA) awareness plan between JAXA, Japan’s Department of Defense (MOD) and US forces.

Japan has also promoted civilian efforts to secure access to the spatial domain. In line with Japan’s longstanding foreign policy commitment to the free shipping of shared domains, it has leading in technical development to “clean” the space of debris and man-made debris. This effort involves a public-private partnership involving a number of companies partnering with JAXA in the use of alternative cleaning techniques, from magnetic mount systems to electromagnetic connections to lasers. .

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Japan’s reliance on space is a flaw. However, Japan’s cutting edge technology platform makes it one potential space power, and it’s not hard to imagine Tokyo maneuvering its “space muscle” as the strategic situation in the Indo-Pacific develops. The Space Operations fleet is the first indication of such flexibility.

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