Tuesday, January 10, 2012

James Clay Moltz's "Asia’s Space Race"

James Clay Moltz holds a joint faculty appointment in the Department of National Security Affairs and in the Space Systems Academic Group at the Naval Postgraduate School. He is the author of The Politics of Space Security: Strategic Restraint and the Pursuit of National Interests and has served as a consultant to the NASA Ames Research Center.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Asia's Space Race: National Motivations, Regional Rivalries, and International Risks, and reported the following:
China’s strategy in space is the main focus of page 99 of my book. But, in many ways, China’s goals provide a useful mirror for similar themes seen in the strategies being pursued by its main rivals in today’s Asian space race: India, Japan, and South Korea. Beijing’s 2006 White Paper describes space activity “as a strategic way to enhance…economic, scientific, technological and national defense strength.” Indeed, space assets can serve multiple purposes. Current trends in Asia are worrisome because we are witnessing a recent surge of interest in military space activity among a number of countries. Unfortunately, Asia lacks any tradition of regional arms control or security cooperation. The question my book asks is whether Asian countries can avoid a figurative and literal “collision course” in space.

Fortunately, page 99 also highlights another factor that may eventually lead to a positive outcome in Asia: economic globalization. Forces of globalization within the commercial space industry are providing new incentives for countries to benefit from the international division of labor. European nations have successfully united their efforts within the European Space Agency, saving resources and greatly reducing the chances of conflict over space issues. The problem in Asia is that countries continue to place space activity within the context of deep-seated historical rivalries with their neighbors. This has prevented meaningful cooperation.

Looking ahead, using space for region-wide environmental and disaster management activities might be a good starting point for Asia. But a dialogue is also needed on space security matters to reduce military tensions and halt weapons tests that release harmful orbital debris. The United States could play a positive role by beginning a policy of enhanced cooperation with Asian space actors, including China. But, for these efforts to work, current congressional restrictions against such contacts with Beijing (mentioned on page 99) will have to be lifted. Europe’s recent effort to create an international Code of Conduct for space activity is another useful step and could help stimulate Asian discussions.

Overall, Asian capitals will first need to recognize for themselves the perils of their current course and the benefits to be gained by increasing space collaboration. At present, however, the signs are not optimistic.
Learn more about Asia's Space Race at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue