The U.S. and Japan held their first-ever Space Engagement Talks last week—a key step in identifying and developing ways by which the two countries can work together in space.
Lt. Gen. Philip A. Garrant, deputy chief of space operations for strategy, plans, programs, and requirements; and Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Mastalir, commander of U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, led the U.S. in the July 13 talks, according to a Space Force release.
The U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command have had top-level engagements with the Japanese before—then-Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond visited Japan and spoke with top defense officials in October 2022, and SPACECOM boss Gen. James Dickinson did the same in March 2022.
But the Space Engagement Talk (SET) represented a more formal dialogue with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. A Pacific Air Forces spokesman told Air & Space Forces Magazine it was a “senior leader level engagement intended to facilitate unity of effort across both organizations.”
“Topics included discussions on space domain awareness, space intelligence, training and education, workforce buildout, capability development, and Space Forces Indo-Pacific coordination,” the spokesman said. “Following the SET, the teams conducted working-level Space Working Group discussions to dive deeper into the SET topics and to identify actionable next steps proceeding the event.”
This most recent engagement with Japan comes six months after the two countries’ top diplomatic and defense ministers met for a “2+2” meeting in which they issued a joint statement saying they had “renewed their commitment to deepening cooperation on space capabilities to strengthen mission assurance, interoperability, and operational cooperation” and pledging to defend each other if attacked in space. Representatives from both countries also signed a Joint Framework for collaborating in peaceful space exploration.
The Space Engagement Talk “is an excellent mechanism to drive new collaborative efforts with allies and partners, and to ensure we preserve security, stability, and long-term sustainability of space for the INDOPACOM region,” Mastalir said in a statement.
The Space Force, like the rest of the Pentagon, has increasingly prioritized the Indo-Pacific region as it looks to combat the influence and growing military power of China. Space Forces Indo-Pacific was the first component command the USSF stood up after its component within Space Command.
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force, meanwhile, has been bolstering its space capabilities. The JASDF Space Operations Squadron stood up in May 2020, then a larger Space Operations Group followed in March 2022. The Japanese government is building up a Space Situational Awareness system as well.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated July 24 to clarify additional SETs that took place with Australia and South Korea.