Japan’s Space Program: Shifting Away from “Non-Offensive” Purposes?

Concerns about the United States’ readiness and ability to fulfill its security commitments have led Tokyo to enact security reforms to enhance its value as an ally while moving toward a more autonomous defense posture to prepare for the worst-case scenario of abandonment. This has transformed the Japanese space program from one based on the principle of peaceful use of space to a program aimed at ensuring national security through non-offensive means.
The security track of Japan’s space program currently aims at boosting the combat prowess of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in accordance with the non-offensive principle, and at maintaining in all circumstances the ability to use space-based assets for this purpose. Therefore, the country is not militarizing outer space beyond what is necessary to guarantee the proper functioning of the SDF.
Information-gathering and maritime domain awareness devices, positioning services and military communications satellites provide Japan with better understanding of its environment, help anticipate and tackle threats, and allow greater interoperability between the SDF services. And, because national security increasingly depends on space operations, space situational awareness has taken prominence in Japan’s space program as a way to protect space assets against orbital debris and anti-satellite weapons.
Compared to the United States, China and Russia, Japan is still inhibited by domestic constraints when it comes to military-related affairs, and thus the use of space for security purposes. But, although Japan’s space program is today almost purely non-offensive in nature, the intra-alliance hedging strategy implies a potential weaponization of space, beyond the non-offensive principle. This offensive use of space could materialize through the acquisition of strike capabilities, and the development of Japan’s own anti-satellite weapons or of active defense systems for space assets.

Asie.Visions, French Institute of International Relations (Ifri): https://www.ifri.org/en/publications/notes-de-lifri/asie-visions/japans-space-program-shifting-away-non-offensive-purposes

Is Japan entering the new space race?

During the new session of parliament in January this year Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his pledge to utilise outer space to guarantee national security. Only last year, Abe confirmed that a unit responsible for space operations will be established inside the Air Self-Defense Force (SDF) by the start of fiscal year 2020. The announcements triggered media attention and concerns in some overseas capitals, but Japan’s outer space ambitions are not new. Neither do the announcements imply that the country is about to enter the space race heating up between the United States, China and Russia.

East Asia Forum: https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2020/02/20/is-japan-entering-the-new-space-race/

Japan’s Awakening: Moving toward an Autonomous Security Policy

Japan has been moving toward a more independent security policy since the early 2010s, duplicating the military assets of the United States and reorganizing the Self-Defense Forces. In Japan’s Awakening, Lionel P. Fatton and Oreste Foppiani argue that the country faces an entrapment-abandonment dilemma in which any attempt to prevent abandonment by the United States vis-à-vis China negatively affects its national security by heightening the risk of entrapment in the Korean Peninsula, and vice versa. A move toward autonomy is the only way for Japan to solve this dilemma. The subject is at variance with both the insistence on the constraining effect of domestic norms on Japan’s security policy and the assumption of everlasting reliance on the United States for protection.

Peter Lang: https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/63433

“Japan is back”: Autonomy and balancing amidst an unstable China–U.S.–Japan triangle

Japan’s security policy has changed dramatically in recent years. The country balances harder against China, and its armed forces are increasingly autonomous from their American counterparts. What explains Japan’s growing autonomy and balancing tendency after decades of relative apathy? I argue that this new strategic orientation results from unprecedented doubts about the effectiveness of its traditional security policy amidst an unstable China–U.S.–Japan triangular relationship. Tokyo is increasingly uncertain about American security commitments in the face of a more assertive China. As both the alliance with the United States and the accommodation of China are becoming unsuitable strategies for guaranteeing national security, Japan reverts to a more autonomous and resolute posture. Japan’s new security policy will have important consequences for the triangular relationship.

Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/app5.240

A new spear in Asia: why is Japan moving toward autonomous defense?

Japan is on the verge of what would be a dramatic shift in defense posture. The ‘spear and shield’ structure of the US–Japan alliance, at the center of its security policy for most of the postwar era, is being revamped by a move toward autonomous defense. Why would a country confined to a largely passive and Americanocentrist posture for more than half a century suddenly change course? I argue that autonomy is for Japan the only way out of an unprecedented ‘entrapment-abandonment dilemma’: any attempt to prevent defection by the United States in the face of an increasingly assertive China heightens to an unacceptable level the risk of Japan being dragged into a US-led conflict in the Korean Peninsula, and vice versa. Japan’s ability to wield the spear would likely have destabilizing consequences for the whole Asia-Pacific region.

International Relations of the Asia-Pacific: https://academic.oup.com/irap/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/irap/lcy006/4959342?redirectedFrom=fulltext

The impotence of conventional arms control: why do international regimes fail when they are most needed?

Amid tensions with the West over Ukraine, Russia pulled out of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe in March 2015. The Russian case is another example of a country disengaging from conventional arms control when relations with other member states deteriorate. This raises an important question: can arms control regimes aimed at preventing conflict survive periods of tension and preserve peace? This article argues no. It demonstrates that the prospect and stability of conventional arms control regimes depend on healthy international relations. In times of tension, governments rely on military institutions for advice and absorb military biases incompatible with arms control. Therefore, these regimes fail when most needed and are impotent as instruments of peace. Beyond conventional arms control, the article hints at the fragility of nuclear agreements such as the 2015 Iran deal and the 2010 New START between the United States and Russia.

Contemporary Security Policy: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13523260.2016.1187952?journalCode=fcsp20&