In a speech made to the opening of the Japanese parliament for 2020, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated the country would be establishing a Space Domain Mission Unit (SDMU) in April, which will form part of the Air Self-Defence Force. (1) He also stated the new agency would work closely with its US counterpart, and be based in an existing air-base at Fuchu in Tokyo's western suburbs. A total of $670 million has already been approved in a defence budget allocated for space-related projects, pending parliamentary approval. Once allocated, the defence budget will be used to establish a satellite and communications system for the military, its main role being to 'conduct satellite-based navigation and communications for other troops in the field, rather than being on the ground'. (2)
The development of a US Space Force has been central to a great deal of the pomp and bravado of the Trump administration. While being listed as the sixth US military force, information about the Space Command remains almost hidden within a gargantuan $738 billion defence budget.
The initial US moves were quickly followed by Australia, with the establishment of the Australian Space Agency (ASA) mid-2018. By the end of that year an announcement from Canberra stated the agency was being allocated Lot 14, North Terrace, Adelaide, the former site of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. (3) South Australia, as the country’s “defence state", was presumably regarded as the natural site for the agency, with emphasis placed upon research and development.
It is highly significant to note, therefore, that emphasis has been placed upon Japan's international role and 'bolstering co-operation and weapons compatibility with the US, as it increasingly works alongside American troops'. (4) The US also has similar weapons compatibility with Australia, with heavy emphasis placed upon Pine Gap intelligence facilities for regional co-ordination and planning.
Behind-the-scenes moves to establish space agencies have had to take an important matter into consideration: while the triangular diplomacy, linking the US with Japan as a northern hub for 'US interests' and Australia as a southern counterpart, has now been implemented and is supposedly fully operational, concerns have been openly expressed about threats by adversaries to satellite systems, potentially rendering the whole military plan inoperable during real-war scenarios.
It is no surprise, therefore, to find written into various defence department media releases reference given to the US seeking to 'boost American military superiority in space', and Japan wanting to defend itself from 'threats against Japanese satellites', together with reference that 'concerns are growing that China and Russia are seeking ways to interfere, disable or destroy satellites'. (5)
A further significant factor taken into consideration when studying the US-led wave of militarism across the Asia-Pacific region as they seek to carve-up the region and regain traditional hegemonic positions from computer screens in the Pentagon, is the strategic position of various component parts of the grander plan.
A regional, actual-size map, shows the Adelaide/Pine Gap to Tokyo line passing nearby Guam, in Micronesia, which hosts sensitive US facilities based in the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station at Barrigada. Similar arcs show the Adelaide/Pine Gap distances also swing through the US Headquarters of the Indo-Pacific based in Hawaii, which was opened in May, 2018, coinciding with the implementation of the US-led triangular diplomacy and military facilities with Japan and Australia. A similar distance subsequently links Hawaii with Washington, revealing transmission and reception facilities.
All, however, is not as straightforward as it would appear at first glance: as US-led military planners increase defence and security provision for the links between the various component parts, other countries are drawn into the equation. Problems arise with practicalities: what appears on a computer screen, thousands of miles away in the Pentagon, does not necessarily take local matters into consideration. The Pacific region is largely composed of a multitude of small island land masses, often inhabited by indigenous peoples who have lived subsistence life-styles together with vibrant Chinese communities for centuries. The US have, therefore, had to contend with small localised issues suddenly developing major importance for military planning; countries such as the Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently switching diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, for example, has had major implications for US regional foreign policy.
A number of other problems with the major players have also arisen with US-led regional military planning which have considerable bearing upon intended outcomes:
• the Japanese government has still to revise their US-written post-War Constitution which technically prohibits 'the use of force in settling international disputes', a major obstacle for US-led regional military planning. (6) The Abe administration has been unable to muster enough support to make the changes, and his parliamentary support is declining amid various scandals. It is unlikely the government will be able to achieve its objectives;
• Japanese defence and security provision rest on stable relations with South Korea, which include extensive intelligence facilities. Recent diplomatic hostilities between the two countries, however, saw intelligence links briefly terminated by South Korea. While PM Shinzo Abe has stated 'he planned to co-operate closely with Seoul in dealing with the harsh security environment in north-east Asia', the presidential administration of Moon Jae-in in the Blue House has continued to treat Japanese diplomacy with apprehension for numerous reasons (7);
• both Australia and Japan have, to date, been unable to ratify the so-called Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), intended to establish a legal framework for defence co-operation and the inter-operability of joint use of military bases and appropriate conduct during exercises. While it has been noted from official media releases that the RAA 'is vital for Australia and Japan to step up their defence relationship', agreement has still not been achieved. (8) Negotiations started in 2014 and have been revived on a number of occasions, without success. It has been noted that failure to resolve the RAA has made closer defence co-operation difficult, with the statement that 'we haven't even crossed this low bar of an RAA'. (9) A main problem arising between the negotiating teams followed local outrage in Japan after a twelve-year old girl was raped by three visiting US military personnel in 1995. The fact the failure to resolve the RAA between the major players has included problems arising with sexual perversion and paedophilia reveal something of the warped mind-set of those decision-makers with attitude problems who lurk behind their computer screens in Washington, the Pentagon, Canberra and Tokyo;
• to date, the US Space Force has only one official member, a general and commander, Jay Raymond, who was allocated a standard woodland camouflage uniform by the Pentagon following his successful promotion, leading to social media speculation about whether it was intended for use when invading forests and jungle landscapes on other planets (10);
• the soon to be established SDMU in Japan, likewise, will only be allocated twenty personnel, despite great emphasis placed upon its defence and security provision as part of the US-led global network. (11) The fact those concerned will presumably have paid-leave absences from work and other entitlements linked to family responsibilities does not appear to have entered into the minds of those drawing up their employment contracts and the problem of round-the-clock general staffing;
• similar facilities based inside Lot 14, North Terrace, Adelaide, have not, to date, revealed staffing numbers although their premises exist in the middle of a building site with limited security during after-work hours. Moves, by the ASA, to have trees removed from the nearby road-side to create easy access and a car-park have also been met with a furious response and opposition from local conservationists. At least one tree is officially listed. (12)
In conclusion, while it has been noted that 'Donald Trump championed the creation of the sixth branch of the military and congress appropriated funds for the force in its most recent budget', like so many recent US-led initiatives, a continued failure to organise and implement policy in a professional manner remain evidence of a haphazard approach to a foreign policy based more upon fiction and fantasy rather than diplomatic common-sense and accurate military assessments of the prevailing situation the US have found itself confronted with:
We need an independent foreign policy!
1. Japan to set up a space force, Australian, 21 January 2020; and, Abe says new unit, Japan Today, 20 January 2020; and, Star Wars, Japan announces, The Sun (U.K.), 20 January 2020.
2. Australian, ibid., 21 January 2020, and; Japan Today, ibid., 20 January 2020.
3. South Australia to become home, ABC News, 12 December 2018.
4. Australian, op. cit., 21 January 2020.
5. Sun, op. cit., 20 January 2020; and, Australian, op. cit., 21 January 2020.
6. Australian, ibid., 21 January 2020.
8. Death penalty hindering Japan pact, Australian, 17 December 2019.
10. Joke on Space Force uniform, Australian, 20 January 2020.
11. Australian, op. cit., 21 January 2020.
12. See South Australia Government website: Lot 14, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA.