U.S. poised to extend Japan security umbrella into space

Expanded defense coverage would protect satellites

Satellites play a key role in Japan’s defense capabilities, including readiness for a Taiwan contingency. (Photo courtesy of iQPS)RIEKO MIKI and SHUNSUKE SHIGETA, Nikkei staff writersJanuary 9, 2023 00:30 JST

TOKYO — The U.S. is finalizing plans to extend its security umbrella for Japan into space, seeking to protect satellites crucial in military surveillance and operations, Nikkei has learned.

The expanded protection would be covered by Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, which obligates Washington to defend Japan if territory under its administrative control is attacked. Japan’s satellites would be deemed as under such control.

The two allies, with an eye on China and Russia, aim to bolster deterrence by underscoring their commitment to responding against an enemy attack with force.

Japan and the U.S. aim to include the provision in the joint statement from their “two-plus-two” security talks between defense and diplomatic chiefs set for Wednesday in Washington. Plans call for the statement from the summit two days later between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House to include the arrangement as well.

Cyberspace was added to the U.S. defense commitment in 2019, expanding from land, air or maritime attacks.

Military activity in space is rising. China and Russia have intensified efforts to obstruct the use of space by others, interfering with satellite communications and developing missiles and laser weapons to destroy satellites. The two countries also are said to be advancing plans for satellites capable of attacking those of other countries.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has highlighted the importance of space for military purposes as well. Satellite communications are essential for launching missiles and operating drones, while Western intelligence provided to Ukraine on Russian troop positions has played a role on the battlefield.

Satellites are vital in strengthening Japan’s defense capabilities, including readiness for a Taiwan contingency. Japan’s revised defense strategy emphasizes the importance of long-range missiles, as well as the use of electromagnetic waves and drones — all of which rely on satellites.

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