Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday said Japan is to form a space defense unit to protect itself from potential threats as rivals develop missiles and other technology, and that the new unit would work closely with its US counterpart recently launched by US President Donald Trump.
The Space Domain Mission Unit is to launch in April as part of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Abe said in a policy speech marking the start of the year’s parliamentary session.
Japan must also defend itself from threats in cyberspace and from electromagnetic interference against Japanese satellites, he said.
Concerns are growing that China and Russia are seeking ways to interfere, disable or destroy satellites.
“We will drastically bolster capability and system in order to secure superiority” in those areas, Abe said.
The space unit is to be added to an existing air base at Fuchu in the western suburbs of Tokyo, where about 20 people would staff it ahead of a full launch later in the year.
The role of the unit is to conduct satellite-based navigation and communications for other troops in the field, rather than being on the ground.
Abe’s Cabinet in December last year approved a ￥50.6 billion (US$459 million) budget in space-related projects, pending approval from the parliament.
The unit would cooperate with the US Space Command that Trump established in August, as well as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Abe has pushed for the Japan Self-Defense Forces to expand its international role and capabilities by bolstering cooperation and weapons compatibility with the US, as it increasingly works alongside US troops and as it grows concerned about the increasing capabilities of China and North Korea.
Abe, in marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of Japan-US security treaty on Sunday, vowed to bolster Japan’s capabilities and cooperation with the US, including in the areas of space and cybersecurity.
He said that he is determined to settle Japan’s “unfortunate past” with North Korea, as he hopes to “sum up” his country’s postwar legacies before his term expires next year.
He reiterated his intention to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un without the conditions he had demanded in the past — denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and resolving the decades-old issue of abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
Part of Abe’s plan while in office is to achieve his long-cherished goal of revising Japan’s US-drafted constitution that prohibits use of force in settling international disputes.
Despite Abe’s push, chances are fading for the revision due to a lack of public interest and the opposition’s focus on other controversial issues, such as Japan’s recent dispatch of naval troops to the Middle East and questionable public record-keeping at Abe’s annual cherry blossom viewing parties.
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