Competing powers China and Japan are vying for prominence in the Asia–Pacific region as each country pursues development of its space program. At a recent event at The Heritage Foundation, Katsuyuki Kawai, a member of the Japanese House of Representatives, noted, “Space has become the yardstick to measure national capabilities in diplomacy and security.”
Despite close competition in the region, China and Japan are far behind the U.S. in terms of space capabilities. However, recent Asian missions are indicative of the rise of space programs in the Asia–Pacific. Last week’s panel discussed this rise and its strategic implications for the U.S. and its regional allies.
Dean Cheng, senior research fellow in Heritage’s Asian Studies Center, reiterated Kawai’s statements, highlighting the importance for countries to gain a foothold in the “key strategic high ground” of space. China’s continued interest in counter-space and anti-satellite technology raises important national security questions for the U.S. and its Pacific allies, specifically as it relates to the vulnerability of satellites and associated information systems.
Other panelists concurred that the evolving threat of counter-space and anti-satellite technology is changing the “Asia pivot” policy discussion on Capitol Hill to include space. Of particular importance is the effect of budget cuts on U.S. space capabilities such as Air Force technologies for “space situational awareness.”
According to Eric Sayers, defense policy advisor for Congressman Randy Forbes (R–VA), space policy is beginning to gain more attention in Congress overall. U.S. cooperation with allies in Asia is set to increase, and space cooperation is likely to be a part of the new U.S.–Japan defense cooperation guidelines.
Space development is on the rise in the Asia–Pacific, and the threat of counter-space technology has implications for the national security of both the United States and its allies. Given the growing reliance on satellite technology, the decisions of policymakers regarding these threats could affect everyday life.
James Banks and Roy Howell are currently members of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.