Outer Space Security and the Future of the U.S.-Japan Alliance

Frank A. Rose
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Keio University, Japan
July 15, 2015


Thanks to you all for having me speak here this morning. I’m so pleased to be at Keio University for the first time. Professor, thank you for the kind introduction.

It is a pleasure to return to Japan just a couple of months after Prime Minister Abe’s State visit to Washington D.C. President Obama noted at that occasion that Japan’s contributions extend beyond its robust security partnership with the United States. He said that Japan’s cultural influence is reflected in the love America’s youth has for “karate and karaoke, manga and anime… And, of course, emojis,”

I do not proclaim to be an expert on such matters so I’ll focus my remarks on another dimension of the enduring U.S.-Japan relationship. In my six-years at the State Department, I have had the privilege of being welcomed to Japan many times to discuss our nations’ shared interest in and commitment to international peace and security. Our discussions have included nuclear policy and disarmament, extended deterrence, missile defense, and outer space security.

An Evolving US-Japan Alliance

Today’s conversation on outer space security and the future of the U.S.-Japan Alliance is particularly well timed given the historic meetings that have taken place between our countries just over two months ago. Since taking office, President Obama has worked to rebalance American foreign policy to ensure that the United States is playing a larger and lasting role in the Asia Pacific—a policy grounded in our treaty alliances, including our treaty with Japan. Recent developments have demonstrated tangible proof of our shared commitment to the alliance.

On April 27, Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Defense Carter, Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida, and Minister of Defense Nakatani, convened the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (SCC) in New York to announce the approval and release of new, revised “Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation.”

The Guidelines, which were first approved on November 27, 1978, and revised on September 23, 1997, provide a general framework for the roles and responsibilities of both of our countries. They guide our policy direction and our mission, and facilitate cooperation and coordination. The one unshakable truth is that the U.S.-Japanese Alliance not only endures, it grows stronger from decade to decade.

But a lot has changed since 1997, and the security environment has evolved in unexpected and unpredictable ways.

Longstanding threats to Japan such as North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs remain a concern, while emerging threats in areas such as cyber security, space security, and freedom of navigation present new challenges. These new Guidelines promote a more balanced and effective Alliance to meet the emerging security challenges of the 21st century.

At their core is a steadfast commitment to Japan’s peace and security. The new Guidelines outline the mechanisms by which our two governments fulfill that commitment. They do this through seamless, robust, flexible, and effective Alliance responses while expanding bilateral cooperation on strategic areas. A dynamic world requires a modern Alliance, and the new Guidelines lay the foundation for the two countries to cooperate in both space and cyberspace, as well as in conducting operations with impact across domains.

The day following agreement on the Guidelines, President Obama and Prime Minister Abe met in Washington for a state visit. There too they recognized the transformation of our partnership into a robust alliance that has, over the past 70 years, successfully grown and adapted to significant changes in the geopolitical climate. They issued a Joint Vision Statement highlighting that the “meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Abe mark[ed] a historic step forward in transforming the U.S.-Japan partnership.” The President and the Prime Minister also recognized that the United States and Japan are building a mutually beneficial partnership that addresses global challenges, including climate change, energy, cyber space, and even outer space.

The U.S.-Japan Alliance, strengthened by the updated Guidelines and the two countries’ respective security and defense policies, continues to serve as the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific, as well as a platform for promoting a more peaceful and stable international security environment. Our partnership with Asia-Pacific nations not only enhances the national security of our respective countries, but also reinforces strategic stability in the region as well as internationally. Ultimately, strengthening the U.S.-Japan Alliance will allow our countries to more effectively contribute to peace and stability both here in the Asia-Pacific and around the world.

Why Does Space Security Matter to the Alliance?

Many of you may be wondering what role space plays in our alliance and partnership, and why space security matters in that larger context. As I said before, the security environment surrounding the alliance has changed significantly since the 1990s, and even more dramatically since the founding of the alliance. This is especially true with regards to space.

Nearly six decades have passed since Sputnik was launched, and much has changed both in the range of space capabilities and in the growing challenges we face. Today, the world relies on satellites for communications, for disaster management and relief, for treaty monitoring, and for sustainable development, among many other things. This reliance is especially true of the governments and people of the United States and Japan. Given the advanced technological development of our countries, space has permeated almost every aspect of our daily lives. However, increasing use of space by many actors – coupled with space debris resulting from past launches, space operations, orbital accidents, and testing of destructive anti-satellites (ASATs) which generated long-lived debris – has resulted in increased orbital congestion, complicating space operations for all those that seek to benefit from space.

The threat to outer space is real and growing. As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in his Congressional testimony last February, “threats to U.S. space systems and services will increase during 2015 and beyond as potential adversaries pursue disruptive and destructive counterspace capabilities.” Chinese and Russian military leaders understand the unique information advantages afforded by space systems and services and are developing capabilities to deny access in a conflict.”

China’s continued development of anti-satellite weapons remains a major challenge to the outer space environment. China’s 2007 anti-satellite test left over three thousand tractable pieces of debris in orbit that continue to threaten the space systems of all nations including that of China. It is not in the international community’s interest to engage in a space weapons arms race. Such a race would not bode well for the long-term sustainability of the space environment. Protecting U.S. national security by preventing conflict from extending into space in the first place is a major goal of our diplomatic engagements. In that regard, we work to prevent conflict from extending into space via two diplomatic tracks: strengthening our deterrent posture, and encouraging responsible behavior to prevent mishaps and misper­ceptions, and to diminish the chances of miscalculation.

First, we use diplomacy to gain the support of our allies and friends. We have established numerous space security dialogues with our Allies and space partners. Diplomacy also prepares the way for closer military-to-military cooperation and allied investment in capabilities compatible with U.S. systems.

Second, we use diplomacy to promote the responsible use of outer space and especially strategic restraint in the development of anti-satellite weapons. Diplomacy has an important role in reducing the chances for conflict extending into space through the promotion of international norms of responsible behavior, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Norms matter because they help define boundaries and distinguish good behavior from bad behavior.

Given the dependence that both of our countries have on space for our civil societies, economies, and security, as well as our mutual commitment to ensuring the long-term sustainability and security of the outer space environment, it is no surprise that space has become an essential part of our Alliance. Recognizing the need to enhance our Alliance with Japan in wide-ranging areas of common interest in order to address the changing security environment, part of our effort to strengthen and modernize our Alliance is through enhanced space cooperation.

An Expanding Space Security Partnership

Space cooperation between the United States and Japan has a long history, built on the foundation of civil and scientific cooperation between NASA, NOAA, and other U.S. agencies and their Japanese counterparts. Civil cooperation has yielded advances in other areas. U.S.-Japan space security cooperation is relatively new, but growing fast.

Japan has taken a critical leadership role in those efforts. Japan has asserted itself as a foremost global leader on space cooperation. This is a natural extension of its constructive role in other domains in fostering a more stable security environment in Asia Pacific and beyond.

The space security relationship between the United States and Japan began in 2010, with the first U.S.-Japan Space Security Dialogue. Since then, our discussions on these issues have grown into one of the most important relationships we have with our Allies and partners on outer space security issues.

Cooperation on space security is now part of the Common Strategic Objectives of the Alliance. Bilateral cooperation on civil and security space was recognized in the outcomes of summits between President Obama and former Prime Minister Noda in 2012 and again with Prime Minister Abe in 2014. And recognizing the need to confront emerging security challenges and update the alliance for the 21st century, we worked closely with Japan to ensure that space security cooperation was included for the first time in the revision of the U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation Guidelines released this April.

In the revised Guidelines, our two governments committed to ensuring the resiliency of our space systems, enhancing space situational awareness information, sharing threat information, and pursuing cooperation in areas such as maritime domain awareness and hosted payloads. The Guidelines also established a Space Cooperation Working Group between the two respective Defense Ministries.

During the recent state visit, the Prime Minister and President also recognized the important role space plays in our relationship. They reaffirmed the commitment to secure the responsible, peaceful, and safe use of space, underscored the importance of continued utilization of the International Space Station, agreed to strengthen the resilience and interoperability of critical space systems, and confirmed their support for international efforts to encourage responsible actions in space.

Cooperation on space security has expanded alongside the President’s rebalance to Asia. What began as a discussion of threats and possibilities for collaboration has turned into a full-range of cooperative efforts bilaterally, regionally, and multilaterally.

Bilateral Space Cooperation

The United States and Japan have held several space security dialogues in the last five years, in addition to ongoing civil space dialogues. Due to the success and robustness of our space security and civil space dialogues, our governments have also established a Comprehensive Dialogue on Space at the direction of President Obama and former Prime Minister Noda, in order to address the bilateral relationship at a strategic level and to ensure a whole-of-government approach to space matters.

We have held two Comprehensive Dialogues to date, with a third meeting to be held later this year in Japan. Through these dialogues, we not only discuss possible avenues of cooperation and exchange space policies, we also have made tremendous progress in furthering our tangible space security cooperation.

To improve our space situational awareness – our shared ability to rapidly detect, warn of, characterize, and attribute natural and man-made disturbances to space systems –the United States signed in 2013 a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) information sharing agreement with Japan. We are also exploring the possibility of establishing “two-way” SSA sharing with Japan.

Additionally, we are considering how we can expand cooperation on utilizing space systems for maritime domain awareness. The United States and Japan held the first “Use of Space for Maritime Domain Awareness” table top exercise in 2014.

We have also worked hard to expand our “people-to-people” cooperation. Between Japanese visits to Washington and my own visits to Tokyo, I find myself engaging with my Japanese counterparts nearly every other month. Members of the Japanese Ministry of Defense attend U.S. Air Force space training out in Colorado Springs. Indeed, a member of my own staff at the State Department along with a U.S. airman, finished a year-long fellowship on space policy within the Japanese government.

Multilateral Cooperation

We also work closely together to cooperate and to coordinate positions on multilateral space issues. We hold an annual trilateral space security dialogue with Australia and Japan to coordinate our positions on space security issues.

Recognizing the importance and rapid emergence of Asia-Pacific nations in space, together with Indonesia, our three nations co-hosted the second ASEAN Regional Forum Space Security Workshop in Tokyo in October 2014.

Our joint efforts to advance the work of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) Working Group on Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities (LTS) continue to make progress. Perhaps one of the most beneficial transparency and confidence-building measures, or TCBMs, for ensuring sustainability and security in space could be the adoption of an International Code of Conduct to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, space. A Code would establish guidelines, or rules of the road, to reduce the risks of debris-generating events, including collisions.

The United States is working with the European Union and other spacefaring nations, like Japan, to advance such a Code. Both Japan and Australia have also endorsed its development.


During Prime Minister Abe’s visit, the President spoke of a Japanese phrase that has stuck with me. Otagai no tame ni—“with and for each other.” President Obama said that “it’s an idea rooted in loyalty. It’s an expression of mutuality, respect and shared obligation. It transcends any specific moment or challenge. It’s the foundation of a relationship that endures. It’s what allows us to say that the United States and Japan stand together.”

I think this phrase is at the very heart of the relationship we are developing on space security—recognition that by working together, not only do we strengthen one another, but we become something greater than we are individually. No one country holds a monopoly on space. We can no longer go it alone. Our security, and the security of the space environment, depends on our partners and friends. We are grateful to have such a strong partner in Japan.

Thanks very much, and I look forward to the discussion.