Japan said on Monday that it will increase its defense capabilities in space and improve its ability to detect and track missiles as it partners with the United States in response to what it called a growing threat from North Korea and China. A revised basic space policy adopted by the government’s strategic space development panel endorses plans for a number of small-scale intelligence-gathering satellites to rapidly assess North Korean missile movements.
In civil aviation, Japan will seek to partner with the US to send astronauts on a US lunar mission. The revised policy will be adopted by the cabinet on Tuesday.
Japan aims to double the size of its aerospace industry from its current 1.2 trillion yen ($ 11 billion) by the early 2030s. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday pledged that his government will promote investment in future strategic areas, such as scrap-clearing or prevention technology, as he set out to become Japan “a future independent space power”. Abe has pushed for the Japanese self-defense force to expand its international role and capability by enhancing cooperation and weapon compatibility with the U.S. as it increasingly partners with U.S. forces over concerns about China’s and North Korea’s increasing capabilities.
Japan launched a new space defense unit in May to track and counter threats to the country’s satellites. The Space Operations Squadron, part of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, started out with 20 members and is expected to grow to about 100 once it becomes fully operational in 2023.
The squadron’s launch comes amid growing Japanese concerns that China and Russia are looking for ways to disrupt, disable, or destroy satellites. The squadron will partner with the US Space Command founded by President Donald Trump last year, as well as with the Japanese space exploration organization Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.