THE SPACE SCRAPBOOK: JAPAN AND US CONCERNED ABOUT SATELLITES DISGUISED ...April 20, 2015
Now, this story comes fresh on the heels (at least in my blogging about it) of yesterday's blog about RT's strange reporting and phraseology about spy satellites disguised as space junk, and that they were "state affiliated." This story comes from Ms. P.H., to whom we are grateful for sharing it, for it's as if she was reading either my mind, or Russian General Oleg Maidanovich's mind, or both. And this article, in its own way, is at least as puzzling as the RT article. See if you can catch why:
Now, beyond the usual references to Japanese Prime Minister Abe's determination to raise Japan's military capabilities considerably, and the understandable reticence among the Japanese population to do so, there's something else quite unusual here.
"The guidelines, which will be updated on April 27 for the first time since 1997, would provide for cooperation on Space Situational Awareness (SSA), or detecting and identifying objects in orbit, and on maritime surveillance from space, the sources said.
"Japan and the United States have recognised space weaponry development - brought to the fore by China's 2007 anti-satellite missile test - and an increase in the amount of dead satellites and other space junk as factors impeding the peaceful use of space.
"In talks on Wednesday, Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter affirmed Japan-US cooperation in the field of space, including the establishment of a new working-level taskforce. The revised defence guidelines would specify the importance of SSA, the sources said.
"The countries also planned to reconsider the manner of cooperation between Japan's Self-Defence Forces and the US Strategic Command's Joint Space Operations Centre, which handles US space surveillance, the sources said. The US is decentralising its satellite systems so satellites maintain some level of functioning in the event of attack.
"The US planned to turn to Japan's network of "quasi-zenith satellites" in addition to its own global positioning system, the source said. Information sharing on global maritime surveillance has the potential to better equip Japan and the US to ensure the security of sea lanes and respond to tsunamis and other disasters."
Now, if one were inclined just to read this article by itself, or to read just these paragraphs, one has the more-or-less predictable noise about Japanese-American defense cooperation, with the Japanese dutifully making their space capabilities available to America for defense purposes. Nothing new here. So why run the story at all? We'll get back to that.
But then there's this story, shared by Mr. S.D.:
Notice the crucial paragraphs here:
"In January, Japan's Office of National Space Policy cemented a new 10-year space strategy that for the first time folds space policy into national security strategy, both to enhance the US-Japan alliance and to contain China.
"Under the third Basic Plan, Japan's priorities go beyond building out its regional GPS-backup Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) navigation constellation, advancing its space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities and developing a maritime domain awareness (MDA) constellation. The country will also as much as double its Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) reconnaissance program to an eight-satellite constellation, and develop a space-based missile early warning capability.
"'Japan's three most important space programs are the QZSS, SSA and MDA, but we are also looking toward [space-based] shared [ballistic missile] early warning,' Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Hiroshi Imazu said. As former chairman of the party's Space Policy Committee and current chairman of its Policy Research Council's Research Commission on Security, Imazu is a leading advocate for Japan bolstering its national security space architecture." (Emphasis added)
In other words, as a major component of Mr. Abe's rearmament scheme, Japan is considerably beefing up its space-based spy satellite capabilities and early-warning missile defense capabilities. Looked at one way, Japan is building independent redundancy into the American security architecture in the Pacific. But as I've pointed out elsewhere, Japan's long term geopolitical goals might be somewhat different: with the growing alienation from Washington of America's allies, the Japanese program may be a way to assert a much more independent Japanese policy in the long-term. In either case, Japan needs that redundancy and independence, regardless of what America might want or need.
Which brings us back to the first article shared by Ms. P.H., and its first paragraph, and the unusual reason given for this new spate of Japanese-American space security coordination:
"The Japanese and US governments plan to share information on suspicious satellites and "space junk" in earth's orbit, in a move meant likely to serve as a deterrent to China which has been ramping up its presence at sea and in space."
This statement appeared a mere four days after RT's very strange story, which we blogged about yesterday, of spy satellites disguised as space junk, which were affiliated with a state actor. This new article suggests, though again, does not come right out and state unequivocally, that the spy satellites-cum-space-junk are China's. Indeed, we're told only about "suspicious satellites" but the questions impelled by such strange commentary are left hanging over the whole story, unanswered: why are they suspicious? Whose satellites are they; no evasive language here, just tell us? Why the sudden concern about "disguised space junk"? why not come right out and state that the space-junk-spy-satellites are China's if, in fact, they are? No one would be surprised, least of all Russia, Japan, or the USA. So again, it's the strange silence here, and the "non-story" aspect of the story, that makes one wonder whether or not the mention of China was meant more as a distraction from the real story, which is that "space junk spy satellite stuff" up there which, as the Russians so curiously phrased it, is "state affiliated."
The bottom line here seems to be that Russia, Japan, and the USA have now all noticed "suspicious satellites" which are disguised as space junk. So again, in these articles, we're left guessing: whose satellites? why are they suspicious? what's the "affiliation"? And most of all, the possibility still seems open, as I put it yesterday, that with the Russian story, we have an announcement that "someone else is up there" and they're not the usual space actors. And as I put it yesterday, three alternatives for "state affiliation" present themselves: corporations, political institutions or parties, and religious institutions. (There is, of course, one other possibility, but I'm not going there because the usual crowd that does that sort of thing will eventually go there, and get all hot and bothered about it and use the "D" word to do it.) And to put up spy satellites disguised as space junk means they have to be technologically sophisticated, and financially capable of doing so. The corporations we can all easily guess. The political and religious institutions capable - if they so desired - of doing so, we can also probably all guess.
But whatever might be going on, it appears to have three of planet Earth's major space powers concerned enought to talk about it, and to do something about it.
See you on the flip side...
(Our thanks to Ms. P.H. and Mr. S.D. for these articles)