Biden pledges to strengthen space collaboration with South Korea and Japan

Following back-to-back talks with the heads of two East Asian allies, US President Joe Biden committed to boosting space partnerships with South Korea and Japan. Biden pledged to cooperate on putting the inaugural Japanese astronaut on the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program during a May 23 meeting in Tokyo with Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Prime Minister. Biden promised to deepen the alliance “across all domains of space cooperation” with Yoon Suk-yeol, the South Korean President, in a May 21 meeting in Seoul.

Biden and Kishida hailed “progress in collaboration on the Artemis program” in a joint statement released after the May 23 conference, citing their “shared ambition to incorporate an astronaut from Japan on [the lunar] Gateway and robotic lunar surface as well as on human missions,” with a goal of completing an implementation agreement this year.

Biden claimed during a post-summit media briefing with Kishida, which was live-streamed on YouTube, that US-Japan space collaboration is “taking off, aiming towards the Mars and moon.” “I’m looking forward to working on the Gateway station orbiting the moon with you, and I’m looking forward to the inaugural Japanese astronaut accompanying us on the Artemis program’s journey to the lunar surface.”

Following his inauguration in October, Kishida has made it a goal to get “Japanese boots on the moon.” He updated Japan’s space strategy to include the objective of landing an astronaut from Japan on the moon by the late 2020s. “We will promote the Artemis project to execute manned activities on the moon, and we will endeavor to achieve the moon landing of Japanese astronauts in the late 2020s,” the Japanese prime minister stated at a summit of the Strategic Headquarters for Space Development on December 28. The revamped roadmap also calls for working with Japan’s private sector to construct crewed lunar rovers as well as other “essential systems for human activity on the moon.”

Biden spoke with Yoon, the South Korean President in Seoul before the Tokyo meeting, and the two agreed to increase collaboration in all space-related sectors. By the end of the year, the two countries will elaborate on their commitment to working-level talks.

The vow was made as part of a larger set of trade, security, and technological agreements negotiated during the meeting between the two presidents. “President Biden and President Yoon resolve to deepen the ROK-US alliance across all fields of space cooperation,” they stated in a joint statement released after the summit. “Building on the ROK’s previous pledge to join in the Artemis project, the two Presidents resolved to promote joint space exploration research and assist the construction of the KPS (Korean Positioning System) by the ROK.”

The two presidents also agreed to hold the third US-ROK Civil Space Dialogue before the end of the year to explore concrete plans for space exploration, navigation, and policy cooperation. Based on a decision by the ROK-US Joint Committee on Science and Technology Cooperation, the two nations initiated the discourse in 2014. The first phase of the dialogue took place in July 2014 in Washington, and the second in April 2016 in Seoul, with representatives from both sides’ space agencies and allied government bodies in attendance. Through the channel, the two sides addressed a variety of topics, such as space exploration, satellites, the environment in space, and space policy, but it has remained dormant since the second meeting for unexplained reasons.

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