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Diplomacy in Action

Rebalancing Towards Asia With Space Cooperation

Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
National Space Symposium
Colorado Springs, CO
April 11, 2013


As prepared

I am very pleased and honored to be back in Colorado Springs for my third National Space Symposium. I have had great experiences during my last two symposia, and I’d like to thank the Space Foundation for inviting me back. Given the U.S. Government’s much-talked-about “Asia Pivot,” I am very pleased that this year’s Symposium is featuring a panel on “Space in the Asia-Pacific” where we can talk about how this strategic “rebalance” affects our space cooperation.

Over fifty-five years have passed since Sputnik was launched, and much has changed, both in the breadth of space capabilities and in the growing challenges we face. Today, the world relies on satellites for communications, for disaster management and relief, for treaty monitoring, and for sustainable development, among many other things. Our world’s increasing reliance on space assets is also reflected in the number of nations now operating in space. Today, there are approximately sixty nations and government consortia, as well as numerous private sector organizations that operate in space, and that number is expected to continue to grow. This increasing use – coupled with space debris resulting from past launches, space operations, orbital accidents, and testing of destructive ASATs which generated long-lived debris – has resulted in increased orbital congestion, complicating space operations for all those that seek to benefit from space. As the United States’ strategic guidance for Priorities for 21st Century Defense points out, “Growth in the number of space-faring nations is also leading to an increasingly congested and contested space environment, threatening safety and security.”

The Department of Defense’s Priorities for 21st Century Defense also intrinsically ties the emerging challenges of the global security environment to increased engagement in the Asia-Pacific, noting that:

“U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. […] We will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.

Over the past decade, Asian nations have increased their profile on the world stage and continue to increase their role in addressing global challenges. Our Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy reflects recognition by the United States that we must broaden and deepen our engagement in the region at all levels. This includes cooperation to ensure the long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security of the space environment. To deepen our engagement, we are following the comprehensive, multidimensional strategy laid out by President Obama and other senior leaders, including: strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; empowering regional institutions; and building a stable and constructive relationship with China.

Strengthening Alliances

As National Security Advisor Donilon said just last month, “For all of the changes in Asia, this much is settled: our alliances in the region have been and will remain the foundation of our strategy.” Not only are we strengthening our alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, but in many cases, we’re updating them to face evolving security challenges, such as those in the space environment.

Recognizing the numerous opportunities for cooperation on space issues, the United States and Japan have held several space security dialogues in the last three years, in addition to ongoing civil space dialogues. The discussions in these meetings have led to recognition by the highest levels of our governments of the importance of space to our nations and our alliance. In 2011, for the first time our Ministers included maintaining cooperation with respect to protection of and access to space as one of the Common Strategic Objectives of the Alliance. A year later, President Obama and former Prime Minister Noda recognized space cooperation in their joint statement and issued a list of six space initiatives for expanded space cooperation between the United States and Japan. One of those high-level initiatives was the Comprehensive Dialogue on Space, intended to address the bilateral relationship at a strategic level and to ensure a whole-of-government approach to space matters. The President and former Prime Minister Noda also agreed to develop a framework for sharing space situational awareness services and information, which we hope to have signed in the near future.

Space has also played a crucial role in revitalizing our alliance with Australia, with discussions on space beginning as early as the 2008 Australia-U.S. Ministerial (AUSMIN). At the 2010 AUSMIN, our governments acknowledged the growing problem of space debris, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on space surveillance. Two years later, we continued that cooperation at the 2012 AUSMIN when we announced that the United States will transfer a C-Band radar to Australia. This radar will help expand our ability to track space debris in that part of the world. We are also considering the transfer of a space surveillance telescope to Australia for the same purpose. As then-Defense Secretary Panetta said when these initiatives were announced, “all of that represents a major leap forward in bilateral space cooperation and an important new frontier in the United States rebalance to the Asia Pacific region.” We also continue to have ongoing space security dialogues with Australia, have recently expanded these dialogues to include trilateral discussions with Japan, and are currently finalizing a space situational awareness sharing agreement between our two countries.

Discussions on space security have also been increasing between our government and that of the Republic of Korea, and the establishment of a formal space security dialogue between our nations is currently being considered. Like the United States, the Republic of Korea supports the creation of transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) and rules of responsible behavior in space, such as the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, as do Japan and Australia. The United States and the ROK also closely coordinate on the work of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts study on Outer Space TCBMs, which we are both members of.

Deepening Partnerships and Empowering Regional Institutions

As we update our alliances for the new demands of the 21st century, we are also building new partnerships to help solve the shared problems of the space environment. All nations – established and emerging spacefaring nations, as well as those just beginning to consider how they can use space – have a stake in maintaining the sustainability and security of the space environment.

Building upon our robust civil space cooperation, we see a strong role for greater U.S.-India cooperation on space security issues, in the Asia-Pacific and internationally. As President Obama said in 2010, the relationship between India and America will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. While India has long focused on using space for the benefit of its people, as an established spacefaring nation with close ties to other regional space actors and emerging spacefaring nations, we see a strong role for Indian leadership in regional and multilateral space fora, where India has much to give, and also to gain. It is clear that there are significant areas of strategic convergence between India and the United States on space issues. This is why, in 2011, we launched the first U.S.-India space security discussions as part of an effort to ensure that our two countries exchange views on this increasingly important domain.

We are not only looking to strengthen our current alliances and partnerships, but to forge deeper ties with emerging spacefaring nations. That is why I’ve spent a great deal of time in Asia in the past two years, discussing space security issues with my counterparts in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Our increasing engagement with ASEAN members is part of a broader effort by the United States to deepen our commitment to the region and to work with all nations to ensure a sustainable and secure space environment. To that end, we were proud to participate in and support last December’s ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) workshop on space security, co-hosted by Vietnam and Australia. This event was extremely important in that it was the first time the ARF members had come together to discuss space security issues. The event truly emphasized that space is vital for development and security of all nations, and that we must work together to preserve the benefits for future generations. ARF members welcomed space issues into the ARF and called for more workshops. As a major forum for a large group of established and emerging spacefaring nations, the ARF provides an ideal opportunity to strengthen and develop the region’s space expertise.

Building our Relationship with China

Finally, another pillar of our approach to the rebalance is building a constructive relationship with China. There are few diplomatic, economic, or security challenges in the world that can be addressed without China at the table, including the issues confronting the space environment. To that end, we are also trying to engage China on space security bilaterally and multilaterally. Both the United States and China have an interest in maintaining the long-term sustainability of the space environment, especially limiting the creation of long-lived space debris. To this end, we are working to establish a direct line of communication between U.S. and Chinese officials in order to provide the Chinese with timely conjunction notifications. Additionally, it is important that we discuss space security issues bilaterally given our common interests in preventing misperceptions, mistrust, and miscalculations. While we recognize that we may not agree on every issue, it is vital that we begin these discussions and keep improving our channels of communication.


In conclusion, I’d like to quote former Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, who in 2012 said, “The long-term sustainability of our space environment is at serious risk from space debris and irresponsible actors. Ensuring the stability, safety, and security of our space systems is of vital interest to the United States and the global community.” The United States is committed to addressing the challenges facing the space environment. However, we recognize that we cannot address these challenges alone. All nations – including those in the Asia-Pacific region, which is seeing a rapid expansion in its number of spacefaring nations, and rapid development of those nations’ capabilities – should work together to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space to preserve its use for the benefit of future generations. Therefore, as U.S. foreign and defense policy rebalances to the Asia-Pacific, we are deepening our engagement with the region on space security issues.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak here today. I look forward to the discussion.

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