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Speaker optimistic about space cooperation

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Dr. James Moltz , author and professor in both the Department of National Security Affairs and the Naval Postgraduate School, spoke about Asia’s rise in space in the first National Space Security Institute’s speaker’s series Jan. 29, 2016. Several of his books are on the 2015 Space Professional Reading List. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Dr. James Moltz, author and professor in both the Department of National Security Affairs and the Naval Postgraduate School, spoke about Asia’s rise in space in the first National Space Security Institute’s speaker’s series Jan. 29, 2016. Several of his books are on the 2015 Space Professional Reading List. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Developing space capabilities in Asian countries like China, Japan, India, South Korea and North Korea certainly call for close attention and current developments require greater U.S. attention and engagement if existing Asian rivalries in space are to be prevented from spilling over into conflict, said Dr. James Moltz during his presentation "Asia's Rise in Space and Implications for the United States," Jan. 29 at the Peterson Air Force Base auditorium.

It was the first of the National Space Security Institute's Speakers Series. The aim of the series is to bring in authors of the books on the NSSI Space Professional Reading List and have them address faculty, students and interested parties.

"We are forever grateful to Dr. Moltz for taking the time to share his expertise and insight. NSSI faculty, students and the local space professional community surely benefited from his comprehensive and timely presentation regarding the rise of space power in the Asia-Pacific region, and what that means for the United States. I certainly did," said Col. Richard Van Hook, NSSI commandant.

Moltz is a noted educator and author in the realm of space security. Several of his works have been on the NSSI Space Professionals Reading List over the last couple of years. Moltz holds a joint appointment as professor in the Department of National Security Affairs and also the Space Systems Academic Group at the Naval Post Graduate School. He is the NSA Department's associate chairman for research and director of the Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In the early days of space programs, when only the U.S. and USSR were involved, there was some cooperation and official space-related arms control. The sense of cooperation was even evident when technology spread after the Cold War and more countries became interested in space, Moltz said. But it didn't take long for that cooperative environment to become tense.

He said there is a new emphasis on space spending, especially rapidly expanding military space spending with no evidence of interest in arms control. That emphasis, along with long-standing regional tensions complicates matters of cooperation in space. These second generation space powers benefit from work done in past years and are able to develop programs more quickly, which means faster development of military space systems.

When it comes to space he said Asian countries are motivated by several things. One of the most notable is the desire to catch up to world economic and technological powers. Obtaining the prestige that comes with being in space factors in as well.
"They recognize the importance of space militarily," Moltz said.

Because regional rivalries extend to space, he said an important question is whether or not Asian powers can learn restraint fast enough to protect space. If not Moltz said things in space could spiral out of control.

By way of analogy Moltz offered the pre-World War II Solomon Islands. They were idyllic before, but after the war the islands were desolated. Eventually they healed themselves and returned to their original beauty. Space, on the other hand, has been an idyllic place, but in the event of a space war would be filled with debris and become unusable.

"The major difference is that space can't heal itself," he said.

China draws the most attention where space is concerned. It began its space program with Russian help and U.S.-trained experts and launched its first satellite in 1970. Using copied technology, China built a broad civilian and military infrastructure.
Moltz said China knew if it was going to compete with world powers it needed to be in space. The communist government is seeing changes with an influx of capitalism among its people, so space involvement helps legitimize its rule, he said. Moltz doesn't think China is certain of where it ultimately wants to be in regards to its space program. China also faces challenges from economic and corruption issues.

"They can't just copy anymore, they have to innovate and they may not be as good at it," Moltz said.

Japan and India are competing with the Chinese in space. Japan is mainly competing in the economic sector, which is leading the nation back to what it does well: innovation. Japan's space program is civilian-run, but military application is more of a factor since laws were changed in 2008 to allow military space activity.

Japan spends more on space than India and more than China's published budget. It continues to expand its commercial and civilian programs, vowing to increase its military space capabilities over the next decade, despite serious budget constraints for the military.

India committed to matching China in space, he said. Like Japan, India's space program had a civilian focus early on. The push to space for India began in 2007 - with China's launch of an anti-satellite weapon - to keep pace. More focus is now placed on military uses of space and India is progressing toward manned space flights within a decade.

Many Asian nations are getting involved in space and overall there are good and bad points to it where the U.S. is concerned. High regional tensions lead to increased threats and prospects for conflict, he said. These conditions make it less likely Asian countries will promote responsible behavior in space and could possibly ruin space in low earth orbit.

On the positive side, in the civilian arena more partnerships can be created as markets develop in space. Military cooperation with Asian nations could reduce U.S. space vulnerability as well. Moltz said there will probably be talks with China in time that could lead to restraint in space activity. However, Moltz is not confident in the success of such talks. The U.S. must work on influencing China's behavior by encouraging greater restraint, but Chinese leaders may or may not comply.

"For this reason the U.S. needs to pursue a parallel course in strengthening its space relations with friends and allies in Asia, such as Australia, India, Japan, and South Korea," he said.

The rise in Asian space involvement has gained the attention of the rest of the world. Civilian and commercial rebalancing of space could promote greater U.S. engagement and even military space cooperation in things like shared launch options and alternate launch sites.

But the biggest role the U.S. can play is in preserving space. Moltz suggested that preventive initiatives on non-interference of satellites, space situational awareness and monitoring are things the government can drive. Public diplomacy on space restraint and economic development should be primary U.S. goals.

"We need to develop space," Moltz said. "Economic development will be the biggest force multiplier."

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