Connecting People & Ideas to Advance Mutual Interests in U.S.-Asia Relations

The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation has received a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo for a new initiative: a workshop in which participants will discuss the application of space technology to maritime domain awareness (MDA) in the South China Sea.

The South China Sea plays an important role in global maritime trade, connecting a number of East Asian and Southeast Asian nations and providing essential undersea resources. However, there are considerable challenges to maintaining freedom of navigation in the area, including terrorism, piracy, smuggling, environmental pollution, and territorial disputes. These obstacles have serious implications for the economy and security of the parties who rely on the South China Sea for transportation and trade. Fortunately, space technology has the ability to mitigate the impacts of these challenges. Since 2008, Earth observation satellites have revolutionized security and improved MDA in the South China Sea, as they can collect data and track maritime vessels that are misrepresenting their locations, even under cloud cover or in the dark.

Data collection and vessel tracking are further enhanced by effective communication between interested parties. The United States and Japan have a well-established cooperative relationship in space research, evident in programs like the Mansfield Foundation’s biannual U.S-Japan Space Forum (more information available on our program page.) However, the need for more comprehensive dialogue and information-sharing has become evident as challenges in the South China Sea intensify. Therefore, the Mansfield Foundation will invite governmental and private sector experts from Australia, Vietnam, and the Philippines to join the United States and Japan in a multilateral working group, which will meet in Tokyo in 2021. This working group will produce a public report of their findings and will generate actionable policy recommendations to improve space and MDA capabilities and advance the ideals of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The results of this workshop will not only have far-reaching benefits for strategic and operational decision-making but will also forge essential human connections that will bolster multilateral cooperation going forward.

The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation wishes to extend its whole-hearted thanks to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo for its indispensable assistance with this important initiative.

This program is sponsored is conducted with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation.