Japan's Prime Minister said on Monday that his country will form a space defense unit to protect itself from potential threats as rivals develop missiles and other technologies and the new unit will work closely with its recently launched American colleague by US President Donald Trump.
The Space Domain Missions Unit will begin in April as part of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a political speech that marked the start of the parliamentary session of the year.
He said Japan must also defend itself against threats in cyberspace and electromagnetic interference against Japanese satellites. Concerns are growing that China and Russia are looking for ways to interfere, disable or destroy satellites.
"We are going to drastically strengthen capacity and the system to ensure superiority" in these areas, said Abe.
The space unit will be added to an existing air base in Fuchu, in the western suburbs of Tokyo, where about 20 people will be equipped before the full launch in 2022. The space unit's role is to conduct navigation and satellite communications for other troops in the field, instead of being on the ground.
In December, Abe's cabinet approved a budget of 50.6 billion yen ($ 460 million) on space-related projects, pending parliamentary approval.
The unit will cooperate with the U.S. Space Command that Trump established in August, as well as Japan's space exploration agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Abe pressured the Japan Self-Defense Force to expand its international role and capability, increasing cooperation and arms compatibility with the United States, as it increasingly works alongside American troops and worries about China's growing capabilities and of North Korea.
Abe, marking Sunday's 60th anniversary of the signing of a security treaty between Japan and the United States, promised to strengthen Japan's capacity and cooperation with the United States, including in the areas of space and cyber security.
In a sign of a thaw in Japan's strained relations with South Korea, Abe said he plans to cooperate closely with the country and the United States to deal with the hostile security environment in Northeast Asia.
He called South Korea his country's "most important neighbor", a standard phrase he used until relations between them quickly deteriorated over the past two years, due to the history of the war and trade disputes.
Abe, however, repeated his demand on Monday that South Korea resolve the issue of compensation for Korean workers during the Japanese colonial regime of 1910-1945.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo were defeated after a South Korean court ordered some Japanese companies to compensate Korean workers for their brutal treatment before and during World War II. Japan maintains that all compensation issues were resolved under a 1965 treaty that normalized relations.
Abe said he is determined to resolve Japan's "unhappy past" with North Korea, while hoping to "summarize" his country's postwar legacies before his term expires next year.
He reiterated his intention to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without the conditions required in the past – to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and resolve the issue of decades of kidnapping Japanese citizens by North Korea.
Part of Abe's plan while in office is to achieve his long-held goal of revising the Japanese constitution drafted by the United States that prohibits the use of force in resolving international disputes. Despite pressure from Abe, the chances are dwindling due to a lack of public interest and the opposition's focus on other controversial issues, such as the recent deployment of Japanese naval troops to the Middle East and questionable public registration at annual flower display parties. Abe's cherry blossom.
This story has been corrected to show that the full launch of the space unit will be in 2022, not 2020