In 2021, the Mansfield Foundation convened a working group of practitioners and scholars to address how best to establish more effective maritime domain awareness in the contested South China Sea. The spark for this working group came from the U.S.-Japan Space Forum, a standing committee of American and Japanese space policy experts examining critical developments and opportunities for cooperation in space.
The group consisted of ten experts from five countries with significant economic and strategic interests in the South China Sea: Australia, Japan, the Philippines, the United States, and Vietnam. These countries have strong records of bilateral and multilateral engagement in the region, and the group put forward strategies to increase cooperation on pairing space technologies to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).
In October 2023, the group published a policy brief which outlines a number of workable proposals to increase this cooperation, while also laying out a framework for policymakers to work across the five nations for mutual benefit in the global commons. The publication lays out emerging technologies in MDA, with a special focus on space observation tools. Key policy recommendations include building a consortium of universities or research institutes (e.g. national labs) from the participant nations which can act as neutral brokers for a range of MDA solutions, as well as creating a government-to-government fusion center to handle sensitive information related to law enforcement, upholding sanctions, and other government activities.