US-Japan space security plan eyed

Personnel at the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, use a virtual reality simulator to practice docking the space shuttle on March 25, 2009.

TOKYO — The Japanese government has decided to develop strategic guidelines regarding the use of space for security purposes comparable to the U.S. National Security Space Strategy, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

According to informed sources, Japan's version of the space strategy will likely call for strengthening of cooperation between Japan and the United States in the space field, including satellite-based maritime surveillance of China, which has been accelerating moves to utilize space for military purposes.

The government plans to compile the document by the end of this year, so that it can be reflected in revisions to the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines that will be drawn up at year-end.

Japan's space strategy is expected to include surveillance of space to detect suspicious satellites and floating space debris, as well as the development of a maritime surveillance system to monitor ocean and ships.

The document will also likely stipulate that Japan and the United States will share data collected by Japanese satellites orbiting above areas from Japan to Australia and also by U.S. positioning satellites, as well as images taken by Japanese and U.S. information-gathering satellites, the sources said.

In May, the Japanese and U.S. governments affirmed the strengthening of cooperation in the space field during a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Comprehensive Dialogue on Space held in Washington.

The two countries are speeding up cooperation in the space field because the use of satellites and other space technology has become extremely important for military purposes. In modern combat operations satellites play indispensable roles, including detecting enemy forces with the help of ground radar and aircraft, and controlling precision-guided missiles.

China has been taking steady steps toward becoming a country with a strong space sector. In 2007, Beijing conducted an experiment to destroy a satellite with a missile. In December 2013, it successfully landed an unmanned probe on the moon.

According to observers, Japan wants to maintain the superiority of Japan and the United States in the space field. Some government officials expect an enhanced surveillance system using satellites will make it easier to identify Chinese military movements, which can be difficult to detect.

In May 2008, when the Basic Space Law was enacted, a ban on the use of space for defense purposes was lifted. The government then compiled a basic space policy in 2009. Japan's space strategy guidelines will be the first strategy document drawn up by the government for the use of space for security purposes.

The United States has updated its space strategy every year since 2011 to promote the use of space for security purposes. With countries such as China in mind, the strategy says U.S. superiority in space is challenged more frequently and calls for the development of a comprehensive surveillance system in space.

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