Tokyo Conference: Asian Approaches to Space Security

Erik R. Quam
James Clay Moltz
May, 10 2007

Conference Details

Collective Security in Space: Asian Perspectives on Acceptable Approaches

Asian Approaches to Space Security: Rocket illustration

Rocket illustration, Source: JAXA website

The conference was hosted by:

  • Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies
  • Space Policy Institute (SPI) at George Washington University
  • Tokyo-based Research Institute for Peace and Security (RIPS)

China’s recent anti-satellite test has heightened the importance of addressing conflicting national approaches to space security. In an effort to begin bridging these gaps, a conference was held in Tokyo, Japan, on April 23-24, 2007 with presentations by 50 scientists, policymakers, and experts from China, India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the United States.

Keynote Address

Dr. Masashi Nishihara (President, RIPS) laid out the regional security context and challenges surrounding space activity in Asia, including:

  • The North Korean nuclear crisis
  • China’s military modernization
  • Political instability in Northeast Asia and in South Asia
  • Economic competition taking place among Asian nations

While stating his belief that regional cooperation will continue to grow, Dr. Nishihara predicted that the priority of national sovereignty will remain a hindrance to Asian space security cooperation for the near future.

Asian Space Assets

Mr. Yoichi Kamiyama, Mitsubishi Corporation
In the panel on “Current Capabilities for Space Security,” Mr. Kamiyama discussed the Japanese space program, its limited budget and the recent shrinkage of Japan’s aerospace workforce. Mr. Kamiyama argued that these trends are a result of the absence in Japan of any defined space strategy outside of the areas of civilian science and technology.

Dr. Changdon Kee, Seoul National University
Dr. Kee analyzed South Korean space capabilities. He noted that South Korea currently has 10-11 satellites in orbit, but plans to expand to as many as 20 by 2015. Dr. Kee also discussed recent progress toward the completion of a domestic space launch facility being constructed on the southeastern tip of South Korea. He concluded with some observations about the problem of redundancy in national space-based navigation systems (such as the US GPS system, the European Union’s Galileo system, China’s Beidou system, Russia’s GLONASS, Japan’s QZSS, and India’s IRNSS) and outlined a plan for increasing collaboration and cost-savings through regional cooperation.

Dr. Rajeev Lochan, Indian Space Research Organization, Bangalore, India
Dr. Lochan spoke next on the history of the Indian space program and Indian perspectives on space security. His remarks highlighted the Indian emphasis on national development, independence (such as in the space launch field) and international cooperation. Referring to the more than 47 missions that the Indian space program has launched, Dr. Lochan noted particularly their role in advancing agriculture, health care and educational opportunities for the Indian population. He said that India defined space security as the “sustainable and denial-free access to and use of space for peaceful purposes for one and all,” emphasizing that space activity must provide redistributive benefits. Finally, Mr. Lochan told the conference that cooperation on space security issues was the only option for the international community and that there was no room for unilateralism in the space environment.

Dr. Yang Mingjie,  China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations
Dr. Mingjie closed the morning session with an address focusing on China’s role in regional space security cooperation and the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO). After a brief introduction to the history of the Chinese space program, Dr. Yang emphasized China’s adherence to the principle of the peaceful use of outer space, while noting that high technology and the high cost of space missions should promote cooperation. But Dr. Yang noted the still-limited membership of APSCO and the need for broader confidence-building and cooperative measures in space. Dr. Yang posited that a good arena to promote cooperation and begin the dialogue necessary for these measures was Track II conferences, where ideas can be floated freely.

Asian Views on Space Security

Dr. Setsuko Aoki, Keio University, Tokyo
Dr Aoki opened the next panel which featured experts from Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia and the United States. Drawing on her legal background, Dr. Aoki reviewed past space security treaties and agreements, but concluded that current Asian security cooperation remains weak, given the absence of a clear forum and the necessary prerequisites for near-term progress. However, she suggested several different measures that could be adopted by Asia in the next five years, including: better implementation of existing UN space treaties, progress on debris mitigation, the use of Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty as a confidence-building measure (CBM) among Asian states and efforts to establish other regional CBMs for space. More concrete mechanisms, she predicted, might then be possible, beginning around 2020.

Dr. Kyung-Min Kim, Hanyang University, Seoul, South Korea
Dr. Kim began his remarks by noting that South Korea still remains behind a number of other Asian space powers. Regarding Asian space security, he emphasized the limits of the possible, given the differences in national capabilities and the role of nationalism. After a brief discussion of the history of South Korean satellite development, Dr. Kim explained that the biggest security objective in space for South Korea was to develop a system capable of monitoring North Korean missile and nuclear development. He also pointed out that South Korea has also selected two astronauts for space missions, one of whom is scheduled to go to space next year aboard a Russian launcher.

Dr. Zhong Jing, National Defense University, Beijing 
Dr. Jing next outlined China’s perspective on space security, explaining that her country strongly supports the peaceful use of space, as well as comprehensive and coordinated space development. However, she noted that China had opted to develop a “limited defense capability” given the delay in reaching agreement on a new space treaty and the US aim through missile defense to “conquer and control outer space.” Dr. Zhong also offered two recommendations: development of a consensus definition of space security and the initiation of formal discussions toward a new arrangement for preventing space’s weaponization.

Wing Commander K.K. Nair, Center for Air Power Studies, New Delhi, India
Mr. Nair began his remarks by rejecting the notion of Wilsonian “collective security” in space. “Common security,” he argued, was a more relevant concept, given the increased use of space assets by modern militaries, the growing number of space-faring nations with differing capabilities and intentions and emerging trends in missile defenses. On the positive side, he pointed out that there had thus far been no known instances of weapons deployment in space, no foreign satellite-on-satellite attacks and few ASAT tests, suggesting that space security is not yet at a critical juncture, despite 10 years of deadlock at the Conference on Disarmament. Commander Nair suggested that the international community should start instead with such “common security” topics as debris mitigation, space resource allocation, traffic management, regulation of non-state activities and reinforcement of the Outer Space Treaty. He concluded on a note of optimism, arguing that Asian states have strong incentives to cooperate, given Asia’s status as the “most disaster-prone continent in the world,” its need for human development, and its ability to benefits from low-costs investments in space.

Group Captain (Royal Australian Air Force, ret.) Brett Biddington, Cisco Systems, Canberra
Group Captain Biddington then analyzed Australia’s role in international space exploration and development. He pointed out that while Australia has not contributed a great deal in terms of investment, it has made tremendous contributions in terms of real estate by hosting ground stations for the US and UK militaries. Captain Biddington also noted that Australia had called in the Chinese Ambassador to express Australia’s unease with Beijing’s recent ASAT test. In assessing the future of Australia’s space program, he explained that change was on the way and that investment in Australia’s space program is rising drastically, due mainly to non-military factors, such as Australia’s current 10-year drought and the desire to use space reconnaissance to track and, if possible, mitigate its effects. In terms of space security for Asia, Captain Biddington pointed to the need for service guarantees in the area of space utilities and enhanced monitoring and management of the near-space environment as important emerging requirements.

Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese, US Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island
Dr. Johnson-Freese closed the panel by discussing US perspectives on space security in general, as well as specific reactions to and implications of China’s ASAT test. As a baseline, she cited three US commissions that have affected US space policy: the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (the “Rumsfeld Commission”), the Commission on US National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China (the “Cox Commission”), and the Commission to Assess US National Security Space Management and Organization (the “Rumsfeld Space Commission”). Turning her remarks to the US-China space relationship, Dr. Johnson-Freese pointed out how China focuses on the wide range of seemingly threatening US space assets while the United States, especially after the January 11, 2007 ASAT test, focuses on the Chinese “threat” to these assets. Dr. Johnson-Freese explained that while the China threat had been an earlier theme and one against which US voices of moderation had been starting to make some progress, China’s ASAT test had drowned out these voices. Dr. Johnson-Freese concluded on a note of pessimism regarding chances for improving US-Chinese space relations in the near-term and even in the next administration, given current negative trends.

New Space Security Initiatives

Dr. Yang Junhua, Vice President & Secretary General, Chinese Society of Astronautics
Dr. Junhua  opened the third panel of the conference on “Regional and International Space Security Initiatives by focusing on the challenges of international management of such threats as weaponization, debris and other environmental concerns. Dr. Yang explained that China is working on space debris research and space environmental prediction models. He mentioned the need for enhanced space object registration. In response to a question about the reasons for the Chinese ASAT test in January, Dr. Yang reiterated that China is committed to peaceful use of outer space.

Major General (Indian Army, ret.) Dipankar Banerjee, Director, Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi
Major General Banerjee began his remarks by noting the major impact of the first Gulf War in forcing China and India to recognize the value of space assets for modern militaries. He predicted the “early weaponization” of space unless there is a “major intervention” by leading space-faring states. Still, he noted the possibility of collaborative approaches, noting the role of ASEAN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and other agreements in promoting regional security, as well as the emergence of non-state actors interested in bridging national boundaries. Closing his remarks, however, General Banerjee quoted an International Herald Tribune editorial from January 21 that cautioned: “Future historians may well see Beijing’s use of a missile to destroy an old weather satellite as having more lasting global impact than the Iraq War.”

Dr. Kazuto Suzuki, Tsukuba University, Japan
Dr. Suzuki next discussed the Japanese debate on space security options. Dr. Suzuki began with an historical discussion of the Japanese space program, addressing the debate between realism and pacifism in Japanese decisionmaking, while also citing constraints on Japan’s military space developments stemming from the 1969 Diet Resolution on space activity. He pointed out that while Japan’s space development has thus far been largely civilian and technology driven, such recent events as North Korea’s 1998 Taepodong missile test, the transformation of the US-Japan alliance and Japan’s participation in missile defense are forcing Japan to reconsider its position and policies on space development. On the other hand, Dr. Suzuki commented that Japan’s small size makes it unlikely that Japan would be well-served by space-based weapons, given the need for large numbers of systems to ensure coverage of the country at any one time. Reform of Japan’s current legislation, however, may allow new military support functions using space. Japan’s growing role in peacekeeping missions and disaster relief, Dr. Suzuki noted, was forcing the Japanese government to reconsider the 1969 Diet Resolution. He suggested, however, that Japan should promote regional fora for discussing space security, noting Japan’s technological advantage as a rationale for possible Japanese leadership in promoting regional space cooperation.

Dr. Mazlan Othman, Director General, Malaysian National Space Agency and
Chair of the Science and Technology Subcommittee, UN Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (COPUOS)
Dr. Othman rounded out the panel with an analysis of the past and future role of the United Nations in space security. She began with a review of space-related activities in the first and fourth committees of the UN General Assembly, the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, and COPUOS. She explained that while ad hoc statements by different delegations are often unproductive, going to the United Nations is positive because there is strength in numbers when discussing issues like space security. She also reported on the positive developments at COPUOS in the field of debris management: an international convention is now ready for approval at its June meeting. Through the United Nations, Dr. Othman noted, small countries can play an important supporting role in space development and management. In her own country, Dr. Othman pointed out the growing recognition that space development and cooperation are important to the national economy, health and, recently, disaster relief. In closing her remarks, Dr. Othman suggested that such measures as an international code of conduct, improved space traffic management, expanded dialogue and the development of cooperative databases would all be steps on the road toward enhancing regional and global space security.

Dr. Tomifumi Godai, Space Scientist & Official, Space-oriented NGO Soranokai, Japan
The conference closed with a presentation by long-time Japanese space scientist and official Dr. Godai, who reviewed the course of Japan’s technological developments in space and noted the need for greater regional transparency in space activities as a prerequisite for enhanced space security cooperation.

The conference was supported with funding to CNS from the Ploughshares Fund and to George Washington University from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Comments Are Closed