JAPAN’S SPACE STRATEGY

JAPAN’S SPACE STRATEGY

April 10, 2020 By Joseph P. Farrell

While all of our attention has been focused on what's going on "down here," you might have noticed there have been a few odd stories about goings on in space, which in some cases, have been a little "unusual." And right at the top of the list, in case you missed it, is this "little" article that was shared by G.B.:

One small step for Japan’s space security strategy

As the article makes clear, Japan is committed to a long term space defense capability, but as it also makes clear, it's actual financial outlay, at the moment, is small compared to other major space powers, and this for constitutional reasons:

The use of the space domain for national defence is not new for Japan, having utilised satellites for information-gathering, communication and navigation in the past. But the increasing dependence on space also means greater vulnerabilities to space debris as well as threats from adversarial weapons systems that can attack or disrupt systems via kinetic and electromagnetic means. Facing the growing uncertainties that come along with space, Japan has begun to take bolder steps to better understand the domain.

Japan’s long-term commitments to space security are reflected in the defence budget. The provisional defence budget for the 2020–21 fiscal year devotes 50.6 billion yen (US$460 million) to space-related programs. This figure is unsurprising when looking at the budgetary commitments of the Ministry of Defense since 2011.

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First, questions remain over the kinds of strategies and operations allowed or disallowed under the current constitutional framework. While there will be little fuss over SSA systems, communications systems and navigational assets, defensive measures such as disrupting the C4I systems of adversaries are likely to raise controversy.

A also noted, Japan's actual personnel commitment to its own version of a "space force" is but a "cadre" operation at present, numbering only 20 people.

But this, I think is bound to change, both in the size and scope of budgetary and personnel commitments, and for a very simple reason; in watching Mr. Abe's government's moves both militarily and diplomatically in the past few years, I've been arguing that Japan has taken a very "long view" of the geopolitical situation, and particularly of the US as an unreliable ally. It has thus - I have argued - chosen to mouth the necessary platitudes of "being a good partner" to the USA in Asia-Pacific security matters, and using this to leverage up its financial commitments to a slow, but perceptible, re-armament, while meanwhile pursuing a quietly aggressive diplomacy, particularly with Russia. As I've argued elsewhere, Japan and Russia need each other, if only as counterbalances to the preponderance of Chinese power in the region.

There is, in fact, a hint that Japan's initial quiet moves in the "space force" department are to be construed as nothing less than seeding the start, because the long range goal of Shinzo Abe's government is much more sweeping in nature:

Development in capabilities focuses on three areas. First is the establishment of an SSA system. Second is improving space-based capabilities including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, communication and positioning. Third is superiority in space, including the capabilities to electromagnetically disrupt an adversary’s command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) systems. The Ministry of Defense has for the first time launched its own X-band communications satellites — kirameki-2 in 2017 and kirameki-1 in 2018 — to enhance the command and control of Japan Self-Defense Force (SDF) units.  (Emphases added)

The choice of wording here is deliberate (assuming here that the translation from the Japanese is accurate): the goal is not parity in space, but superiority in space, and while the article mentions China and Russia as Japan's chief concerns earlier in the article, they are notably absent in this specific paragraph; in other words, what is not being said is as important as what is being said. This is followed by another strange phrase, because not only is the goal "superiority in space," but this is to include "the capabilities to electromagnetically disrupt an adversary's command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) systems." Notably, once gain the target of this goal is a very general, non-specific "adversary," and indeed, the development of the capabilities mentioned could be directed towards anyone, not just China or Russia. And there's a final point, another of those "significant things" that are not being said, for the list enumerated as being included in the capabilities to be developed implies other things that are not being mentioned... things like...oh...I don't know... electromagnetic weapons systems of a different sort, rail guns, rods of God, that sort of thing.

The bottom line? The Japanese is no longer willing to be the "junior partner" in any long term relationship with the USA, nor with its powerful Asian rivals. And the way we(and the Chinese) have been behaving lately, you can't blame them.

See you on the flip side...