Tue | Sep 22, 2020

PM says new unit will defend from space tech threats

Published:Tuesday | January 21, 2020 | 6:25 AM
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


Japan’s prime minister said yesterday that his country will form a space defence unit to protect itself from potential threats as rivals develop missiles and other technology, and the new unit will work closely with its American counterpart recently launched by President Donald Trump.

The Space Domain Mission Unit will start in April as part of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a policy speech marking the start of the year’s parliamentary session.

He said Japan must also defend itself from threats in cyberspace and from electromagnetic interference against Japanese satellites. Concerns are growing that China and Russia are seeking ways to interfere with, disable or destroy satellites.

“We will drastically bolster our capability and system in order to secure superiority” in those areas, Abe said.

The space unit will be added to an existing air base at Fuchu in the western suburbs of Tokyo, where about 20 people will be staffed ahead of a full launch in 2022. The role of the space 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 approved a ¥50.6-billion ($460-million) budget in space-related projects, pending parliamentary approval.

The unit will cooperate with the US Space Command that Trump established in August, as well as Japan’s space exploration agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Abe has pushed for Japan’s Self-Defense Force to expand its international role and capability by bolstering cooperation and weapons compatibility with the US, as it increasingly works alongside American troops and as it grows concerned about the increasing capabilities of China and North Korea.

Abe, in marking Sunday’s 60th anniversary of the signing of a Japan-US security treaty, vowed to bolster Japan’s capability and cooperation with the US, including in the areas of space and cybersecurity.