US, Japan To Extend ‘Security Sphere’ Into Space; Washington Required To Act If Japanese Satellites Come Under Attack

The United States is reportedly finalizing plans to expand its security sphere for Japan into space to safeguard satellites essential to military surveillance activities.

The rising tensions between the United States and China are expected to spill into outer space in the future. Both sides are increasing their efforts to gain an advantage in the space domain, which is expected to play a critical role in future combat. 

Thus, safeguarding military satellites is necessary for the United States and its allied countries. In line with this, the US intends to expand its security umbrella for Japan into space. Asia Nikkei reported that the extended protection would be provided under Article 5 of the US-Japan security treaty.

The pact requires Washington to protect Japan if an area under its administrative control is attacked. So, the satellites of Japan would come under Article 5.

With an eye on China and Russia, the two allies want to strengthen deterrence by demonstrating their determination to use force to repel an enemy attack.

An artist’s illustration of a Lockheed Martin-built Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous (SBIRS) missile warning satellite of the US military in orbit. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

The report noted that the proposal is expected to be included in the joint statement from the “two-plus-two” security discussions between defense and diplomatic officials scheduled for January 11 in Washington.

Furthermore, the agreement is expected to be included in a statement following the January 13 summit between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden at the White House.

In 2019, cyberspace attacks were included in the US defense commitment, which had previously only covered land, air, and sea attacks. It is anticipated that bilateral collaboration between Washington and Tokyo will expand into outer space too.

Russia’s ongoing conflict in Ukraine has also underscored the significance of space for military objectives. Russian and Ukrainian troops have shown that satellite communications are necessary for missile launches and drone operations to hit enemy sites successfully. 

The advancement of Japan’s defense capabilities, particularly readiness for a Taiwan situation, depends heavily on satellites. Japan’s updated defense strategy highlights that long-range missiles, electromagnetic waves, and drones rely on satellites.

Meanwhile, China and Russia have stepped up their efforts to hinder other nations’ access to space by interfering with satellite communications and developing missiles and lasers that may destroy satellites. 

Moscow and Beijing are also claimed to be developing ideas for satellites capable of striking other countries’ satellites. 

China Takes Dig At Japan’s Space Ambitions

Washington and Japan agreed that it was vital to strengthen the foundation of Japan-US collaboration with the comprehensive deal as China accelerated its space development programs, the Japanese media reported.

It is also reported that the Japanese and US governments will soon sign a comprehensive agreement for collaborative space development projects. 

It is anticipated that Japan and the United States will have more chances to work together on initiatives like the Artemis Plan, a US-led initiative for manned lunar exploration in which Japan is set to participate. 

The agreement will probably be reached during the Kishida-Biden meeting. It will most likely be signed by American Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi by the end of Friday. 

The agreement specifies shared interests in space development. For instance, if a Japanese space probe damages US equipment or vice versa, neither nation will seek compensation from the other.

Artemis Program: NASA

Under the Artemis Program, the United States plans to land a manned mission on the moon by 2025. Tokyo hopes to place Japanese astronauts on the moon in the latter half of the 2020s. Tokyo aims to become the second nation, after the US, to land astronauts on the moon.

However, China’s state-run Global Times took a jab at Japan’s space plans, saying it is absurd for Japan to send astronauts to the moon using a spaceship from another nation and claim to be “second in history.”

China experts have warned that if Japan continues to rely excessively on the United States, it will soon lose “its ability to walk on its own,” thereby becoming a puppet of the United States.

Song Zhongping, a space analyst and TV commentator, told the Global Times that a manned moon landing is about developing the technology to get astronauts to the lunar surface rather than asking others to assist you in getting your men there.

Overall, Chinese experts accused Japan of exaggerating the “China threat” theory to secure more cash as the new fiscal year approaches.