The United States Space Force is studying the possibility of establishing a unit in Japan, its top official declared in Tokyo, underscoring the importance of bilateral collaboration in the space field, where China is increasing its capabilities.
“We are in the planning phase to determine exactly the functions of that headquarters,” General Chance Saltzman, who heads the newest branch of the US military, told reporters in Tokyo.
As reported by Kyodo News, the move comes as the United States Space Force, created in December 2019, is expanding its presence in the Asian region. In November, it established a unit within the US Indo-Pacific Command based in Hawaii, followed by the creation of a subordinate unit in South Korea in December.
Saltzman, chief of space operations for the US Space Force, was not specific about the location of the component that could be integrated into US military forces in Japan. However, he mentioned among the possible candidates the Yokota air base, west of Tokyo.
A “mission planning process” is necessary to determine the task to be performed, including the appropriate size of the unit and other related issues, he said.
“We still don’t have a timetable for the establishment. But once we have the planning in place, we will be able to have a better idea of when it will take place,” he added.
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The U.S. government is boosting cooperation with Japan and other allies in space, where competition with nations like China and Russia has intensified.
Saltzman said partnerships between the US Space Force and Japan are “growing” and highlighted the important role the two countries’ “collaborative capabilities” can play in the space domain amid “a secure environment.” considerably more dynamic and dangerous.”
“We will work together with Japan and other like-minded nations committed to establishing standards of responsible behavior and deterring conflict for the security, stability and sustainability of the space domain,” he said.
Regarding the situation over Taiwan, Saltzman said China, which views the self-governed island as its own territory, has shown “some aggressive behavior that we want to pay attention to” and stressed the need for the U.S.-China relationship remains one of “competition” instead of escalating to one of “crisis or conflict.”
By maintaining a “sensor network” across a coalition of partners, the United States and its allies can “respond more quickly to irresponsible behavior, aggressive behavior and control escalation,” he said.
Communist-led China has been exerting military pressure on Taiwan, which it views as a breakaway province that must be unified with the mainland, even by force.
On Monday, Saltzman met with Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara in Tokyo and agreed to intensify bilateral collaboration in the field of outer space, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.
As part of efforts to improve combined space operations between both countries, the first Space Engagement Talks between the US Space Force and the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force were held at Yokota Air Base in July.