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New Japanese Defence Policy Guidelines Emphasise Space and Cyber Power

Japan as photographed by Envisat. Photograph courtesy of the European Space Agency.

The Japanese government has issued the 2018 policy guidelines for national defence that emphasises the growing threats emanating from China, North Korea, and Russia in the cyberspace and space domains.

On military space developments, the policy guidelines – released in Tokyo on 28 August 2018 – state that, “[M]ajor countries are making efforts to enhance the capabilities of a variety of satellites and launch them for the purpose of enhancing C4ISR functions,” and that, “[C]ountries are rapidly developing capabilities in outer space for securing their own military superiority in outer space. It is pointed out that China and Russia have been developing anti-satellite weapons such as killer satellites.”

“It is pointed out that China could threaten U.S. information superiority in outer space in the future,” the policy guidelines summary paper adds. Further, the document also characterizes the space domain as increasingly unstable, stating that, “[T]here is a growing threat against the stable use of outer space such as the rapid increase of space debris.”

The document also calls for Japan to develop new capabilities, stating that, “it is essential to secure necessary and sufficient defense capabilities qualitatively and quantitatively. Given that it is especially vital to utilize capabilities in new domains such as space and cyberspace, it would be no longer inadequate to consider problems in the conventional domains – i.e. land, sea, and air, and it is necessary to develop capabilities in these areas.”

Space and cyberspace are also noted as areas where Japan will explicitly cooperate on with its treaty ally, the United States.

On cyberspace, the Japanese defence policy guidelines for 2018 states: “As military dependence on information communication networks grows further, cyber attacks are regarded as an asymmetrical strategy capable of exploiting the weaknesses of an adversary’s forces. Many foreign militaries develop their capability to execute cyber attacks.”

The document goes on to say that, “[I]t has been pointed out that China and Russia are reinforcing their military’s cyber attack capabilities in order to disrupt networked units and destroy infrastructure,” and that, “[C]yber attacks are frequently carried out against information and communications networks of government organizations and military forces of various countries. It is suggested that government organizations of countries such as China, Russia, and North Korea are involved in those attacks.”

The policy guidelines state that the cyber threat to Japanese national security is getting worse with, “the number of cases recognized as threats to Japanese governmental organizations in FY2016 reached approximately 7,110,000, and these threats have become increasingly serious.”

“In order to appropriately deal with cyber attacks, the MOD has increased the number of personnel in the SDF units responsible for responding to cyber attacks approximately from 350 to 430,” the document states.

The 2018 Japanese defence policy guidelines also place an emphasis on ensuring that Japan can maintain a technological lead over potential adversaries through the creation of a funding programme called  “Innovative Science & Technology Initiative for Security,” that has so far identified 33 technology research initiatives for financial support.

At a press conference held on 28 August 2018, the Japanese defence minister, Itsunori Onodera, announced the creation of a special MoD committee to examine the development of capabilities for the cyberspace and space domains.

Onodera said that he will head up the committee, and its members will include Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, the head of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, and General Yoshinari Marumo, chief of staff of the Air Self-Defense Forces, as well as other senior Japanese officers and defence officials.

“It is essential to enhance cross-domain defence capabilities, including in new domains such as space and cyberspace, and [I would like to] deepen discussions on it,” said Onodera at the press conference.

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