Japan to launch military space force

In a move aimed at strengthening Japan-US co-operation in space, Japan says it will become involved in protecting satellites from space junk.

Japan is planning to launch a military space force by 2019 that would protect satellites from dangerous debris orbiting the Earth, a report says.

The move is aimed at strengthening Japan-US co-operation in space, and comes after the countries pledged to boost joint work on monitoring space debris, Kyodo news agency said on Sunday.

Japan would provide the US military with information obtained by the force as part of the joint bid to strengthen ties in space, the so-called "fourth battlefield", Kyodo said, citing unnamed sources.

Japan's defence ministry is looking at creating the new force using personnel from the Air Self-Defence Force, the country's air force, it added.

The unit would acquire radar and telescope facilities, jointly with the science ministry and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, to run its observatory operations, Kyodo said.

Thousands of pieces of debris - including old satellites as well as pieces of rockets and other space equipment - are orbiting the Earth and threaten to collide with functioning communications and reconnaissance satellites.

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