U.S., Japan Pledge Closer Cooperation on Space Surveillance

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PARIS — The U.S. and Japanese governments on Oct. 3 agreed to cement previous accords on tracking objects in space and to boost cooperation on space-based maritime surveillance.

Meeting in Tokyo, the U.S. secretaries of state and defense and the Japanese foreign affairs and defense ministers also agreed that U.S. Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles would begin flying over Japanese territory in 2014 as part of a strengthened agreement in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). 

The meeting took place under the auspices of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee.

The U.S. and Japanese governments have been slowly increasing their space situational awareness (SSA) relationship in recent months with bilateral exchanges, notably through the Comprehensive Dialogue on Space and an agreement in March on sharing SSA information.

In the past these talks have focused on U.S. provision to Japan of data from the network of ground-based radars and satellites that monitor objects in space, both active satellites and space debris.

The Oct. 3 agreement calls on the two governments to speed delivery of SSA data in the other direction — from Japan to the United States. The statement following the meeting did not detail what assets owned by the Japanese government might be brought to the table as part of the accord.

Here are excerpts from the agreement released by the U.S. State Department:

“The Ministers underscored the importance of utilizing capabilities for improved bilateral information collection and sharing related to [SSA] and space-based maritime domain awareness. 

“Specifically, the Ministers welcomed the conclusion of the U.S.-Japan SSA Sharing Agreement and highlighted progress on efforts toward two-way sharing of SSA information. In this context, the Ministers welcomed the commitment of both countries to an early realization of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) provision of SSA information to the United States.

“The [Security Consultative Committee] members also expressed their desire to improve maritime domain awareness by leveraging satellite capabilities and look forward to future whole-of-government exercises and dialogues on this topic. The Ministers welcomed the establishment of the U.S.-Japan Comprehensive Dialogue on Space to coordinate strategic-level cooperation that promotes long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security in space. The Ministers also affirmed continued support for multilateral efforts to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.”