Japan, U.S. to up info-sharing on space debris

Kyodo

Japan and the United States have agreed to share information on the trajectories of rapidly moving space junk, including satellite and rocket fragments, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday.

“It is meaningful in that it represents a concrete case of progress in Japan-U.S. space cooperation in the security area,” Kishida said. “This arrangement is expected to contribute to safe operations of Japan’s satellites by enabling the United States to share information on space debris with Japan in a more extensive and expeditious manner.”

As part of the arrangement, Tokyo is considering providing Washington with space observation data held by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Kishida and U.S. Ambassador John Roos were scheduled to seal the deal later Tuesday.

The amount of space debris has grown sharply in recent years, partly because China tested the destruction of a satellite in space with a ground-based missile in 2007. More than 21,000 pieces of debris are estimated to be orbiting the Earth.

NSC official to visit

Daniel Russel, senior director for Asian affairs on the U.S. National Security Council, will visit Japan this week and hold a meeting with high-level Foreign Ministry officials on Wednesday, ministry officials said.

Among the officials he will probably meet with are Shinsuke Sugiyama, director general of the ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Junichi Ihara, director general of the North American Affairs Bureau, and Deputy Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki.

They are expected to confirm coordination among Japan, the United States and South Korea on approaching North Korea, which has shown a willingness to hold dialogue after previously raising tensions in the region.

They will also discuss how Japan should deal with North Korea following the visit to Pyongyang in mid-May by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe adviser Isao Iijima.

Faced with criticism that the visit weakened international coordination over North Korea’s nuclear arms and missile threats, Tokyo hopes to ensure Washington’s acknowledgment of and support for its desire to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the ministry officials.