The U.S. Space Force is considering setting up a unit in Japan, its top uniformed officer said Monday in Tokyo, underscoring the importance of bilateral collaboration in the space domain where China is ramping up its capabilities.
"We're just in the planning phases to figure out exactly what that headquarters would do," Gen. Chance Saltzman, who is leading the newest branch of the U.S. military, told reporters in Tokyo.
The move comes as the U.S. Space Force, created in December 2019, is expanding its presence in the Asian region. In November, it established a unit within the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command based in Hawaii, followed by the creation of a subordinate unit in South Korea in December.
Saltzman, the U.S. Space Force's chief of space operations, was not specific about the location of the component that could be integrated into the U.S. military forces in Japan. However, he mentioned possible candidates could include the Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo.
A "mission planning process" is necessary to determine the task at hand, including the appropriate unit size and other related issues, he said.
"We don't have a timeline yet for establishment. But once we get the planning in place, we'll be able to have a better sense of when that's going," he added.
The U.S. government is boosting cooperation with Japan and other allies in the space domain, where competition with nations such as China and Russia has been intensifying.
Saltzman said the partnerships between the U.S. Space Force and Japan are "growing" and emphasized the important role the two countries' "collaborative capabilities" can play in the space domain amid "a considerably more dynamic and dangerous security environment."
"We will work together with Japan and other like-minded nations committed to establishing norms of responsible behavior and deterring conflict for the safety, security, stability and sustainability of the space domain," he said.
As for the situation over Taiwan, Saltzman said China, which views the self-ruled island as its own territory, has shown "some aggressive behavior that we want to pay attention to" and emphasized the need for the U.S.-China relationship to remain one of "competition" rather than escalating into one of "crisis or conflict."
By maintaining a "network of sensors" through a coalition of partners, the United States and its allies can "respond more rapidly to irresponsible behaviors, aggressive behaviors, and control escalation," he said.
Communist-led China has been exerting military pressure on Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province to be unified with the mainland, even if by force.
Earlier on Monday, Saltzman met with Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara in Tokyo, and they agreed to further step up bilateral collaboration in the realm of outer space, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
As part of efforts to enhance combined space operations between the two countries, the first-ever Space Engagement Talks were held in July at Yokota Air Base between the U.S. Space Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.