Counterbalancing the presence of China in the Indo-Pacific region notwithstanding, restoring the leadership of the United States under the Biden Administration through Quad framework would give more opportunities for other three countries to tackle global issues such as fight against pandemic and securing supply chains.
The Quad will play an important role for the concept of mission assurance.
By Kazuto Suzuki,
On March 12, the leaders of Quad – Japan, US, India and Australia – met for the first summit meeting. Although the Quad is not based on treaty or legally binding documents, it existed since 2006 as a framework for cooperation at their convenience. However, the importance of the Quad framework became more important than ever. Counterbalancing the presence of China in the Indo-Pacific region notwithstanding, restoring the leadership of the United States under the Biden Administration through Quad framework would give more opportunities for other three countries to tackle global issues such as fight against pandemic and securing supply chains.
Although space was not specifically mentioned in the joint statement, called “the spirit of the Quad”, the cooperation among Quad states on building and operating space infrastructure is important for achieving its goals. From Japanese perspective, Japan would be able to provide strategic assets for enhancing the cooperation among Quad states. First, as it is placed in a strategic position of Western Pacific and East Asia, looking over China and sharing the same latitude with Australia, the geostationary position over Japan is highly valuable in the Quad. The communication satellites in geostationary orbit would provide wider coverage of Indo-Pacific region. Weather satellites (Himawari) have views from Hawaii to the Bay of Bengal. Such geostrategic locations of Japan would provide extreme importance in the context of Quad. This is also true for Quasi-Zenith orbit. The Quasi-Zenith Satellite Systems (QZSS) would provide signal complementary GPS over Japan and Australia.
Second, the Quad would be an ideal group for monitoring movements in orbit. Space Situational Awareness requires radar and telescopes all over the globe. Japan will provide a view in the gap between Hawaii and Diego Garcia where US Deep Space Network radars are located. Australia also provides vital information on the view in the southern hemisphere. The role of Quad is very important for filling the gap of US monitoring capabilities.
Perhaps the most important role Japan would play in the Quad is to provide mission assurance for other partners. Since the ASAT test in 2007, the vulnerability of the space system has become a major concern for the US and its allies. Space became vital infrastructure for military operation, such as drone operation or missile guidance system. If space assets are targeted by the hostile attack, it would undermine operational capabilities of US and allied forces. Such vulnerability is of extreme concern for Japan since Japanese military capabilities depend heavily on that of the US due to its constitutional constraints. Thus, Japanese government has developed a concept of mission assurance, in which strengthening the resilience of space assets of Japan and allies would contribute to assure the continuation of mission of those assets.
The Quad will play an important role for the concept of mission assurance. Not only Japan but also India has a large fleet of Earth Observation satellites and its own navigation satellites. Australia, though it is in the process of developing fully capable space systems, would also play an important role for providing space communications capabilities. The important point is that the Quad shares the same concerns for the vulnerability of space assets and understanding the importance of mission assurance. It would also share the threat and risk that if the conflict between China and US escalated, their space assets could also be the target of ASAT attack.
Finally, Quad has a very important role to play in the international rulemaking process. Given the difficult international environment for building consensus for space governance, Quad would provide a starting point for building up a small multilateral regime with countries that share the same values and objectives for establishing international rules. It is especially important to set up international rules for Space Traffic Management (STM) which would prevent accidental and intentional collision with space debris. Once the rules are established and all the operators are conducting their businesses according to the rule, it becomes a standard practice for debris removal. All it takes is to set up a rule with states which are capable of conducting such operations and having stakes in such activities.
Quad states possess technologies, intentions, values and capabilities for shaping international order. If Quad does not play its role, China would be the mover and shaker of the international system, which may allow Chinese leadership to shape the world friendlier to authoritarian regimes. If Quad does not act, we will be forced to play with the rules that do not fit to our values.
(The author is Professor of Science and Technology Policy, Graduate School of Public Policy, The University of Tokyo. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)