United States Astronaut in space [Image: NASA, Astronaut Michael Edward Fossum / Wikimedia Commons]

Space: The Next Frontier for the United States and its Indo-Pacific Allies

Korea Australia Japan Asia

In October, the United States Space Force was invited to the International Aerospace Symposium hosted by the South Korean Air Force in Seoul, South Korea. During the United States’ presentation, Chief of U.S. Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond stated, “a key part of deterrence comes from strong international partnership, mutual trust and shared value; a long-standing alliance between the United States and Republic of Korea is a great example of the strong partnership.” He went on to say, “we go together,” in Korean, which is the symbolic slogan of the 68-year-long Korea-U.S. alliance.

The United States and South Korea’s budding space alliance has continued to grow since their pivotal meeting in August of this year. In August, Republic of Korea (ROK) Air Force chief of staff, General Park In-ho and United States Space Force General John W. Raymond, met at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The meeting’s purpose was to sign a memorandum of understanding about forming a joint space policy consultative body and becoming partners in space security cooperation. In addition to those goals, both countries agreed to strengthen their already existing partnership on sharing information on space surveillance and improving joint space operations capabilities. The consultative body will regularly hold meetings between the South Korean Air Force and United States Space Force on how to best conduct personnel and information exchanges and coordinate technical cooperation.

This is part of an emerging pattern of strengthening space cooperation between the United States Space Force and other Indo-Pacific countries. In October 2020, NASA, the United States’ civil space agency, announced the Artemis Accords, which are an agreement and framework for cooperative lunar exploration, created to facilitate the Artemis Program. The Artemis Accords are guided by the key principles of peaceful exploration, transparency, interoperability, emergency assistance, registration of space objects, release of scientific data, and several other areas of international cooperation. So far, 13 countries have signed the accord, including three Indo-Pacific countries: Australia, Japan, and South Korea. With more countries and private industries pursuing space exploration, having a basic set of rules grounded in transparency, will be essential for the future of international space exploration. International cooperation into this new frontier is the clear way forward, and South Korea and the United States are establishing the norms on what cooperation can look like.

Shannon Wells is a participant of the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a first-year Master's of International Studies student at North Carolina State University.