Quad leaders to agree on sharing satellite data, boosting cooperation in space, cybersecurity

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga answers questions from reporters before leaving for Washington at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Thursday.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga departs for Washington at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Thursday. 2.

WASHINGTON — The leaders of the Quad, which groups Japan, Australia, India and the United States, are expected to agree to work together in the space and cyber areas at a summit in Washington on Friday, it has been learned.

The four countries intend to share satellite data and launch talks among high-ranking officials in charge of cyber-related matters. With China’s increasing hegemonic moves in mind, the countries are working out new measures to strengthen their four-way cooperation.

The summit will be the first face-to-face meeting of all four Quad leaders. In drafts of a joint statement and related documents obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun, the four countries plan to say, “Quad countries are among the world’s scientific leaders, including in space, and today we will begin space cooperation for the first time as a group.”

The focus of their cooperation is the sharing of satellite data. With the aim of combating climate change, the four countries will share images and other data collected by Earth observation satellites to help analyze the risks of climate change and predict disasters in the Indo-Pacific region, among other purposes.

India, which shares a border with China, has been cautious about stepping into reinforced cooperation as part of the Quad in the security area. In light of that concern, data from intelligence-gathering satellites will not be shared among the four countries.

The agreement also includes a measure to strengthen the four countries’ capabilities in maritime domain awareness (MDA), which aggregates oceanographic data for purposes such as detecting suspicious vessels. The agreement also indicates that the four countries will eventually aim to monitor China’s maritime expansion by increasing cooperation through the use of satellites and other means.

In the field of space development, including lunar exploration, competition for supremacy is intensifying between the United States and China. In the draft joint statement, the Quad showed its determination to take the lead in creating international rules, saying that they will “cooperate [on] the development of norms, guidelines, principles and rules for sustainable and stable use of outer space.”

Regular cybersecurity talks

In cybersecurity, senior officials of the four countries will hold meetings on a regular basis. The countries intend to cooperate in jointly developing common safety standards and software as well as cultivating human resources.

The Quad also has stated a willingness to strengthen cooperation in cyber defense for critical infrastructure. With an eye to the fifth-generation (5G) communications standard, over which concerns have been raised about information management by Chinese companies, the draft document also calls for promoting “cybersecurity of secure and trustworthy digital infrastructure.”

Infrastructure for developing countries

The Quad countries are also making final coordination to expand cooperation on building infrastructure in developing countries. They are expected to agree on the matter during the summit in Washington on Friday afternoon. With an eye on countering China, they intend to lead the promotion of development in the Indo-Pacific region through highly transparent loans.

According to the draft joint statement, the countries will launch a “Quad infrastructure partnership” under which their senior officials will meet regularly to map needs and coordinate development plans in the Indo-Pacific region. The infrastructure area was addressed as a shared challenge at a summit held online in March. By launching the partnership, the countries will aim to build a concrete system for cooperation.

The draft statement states that the Quad will support “open, fair, and transparent lending practices in line with international rules and standards for major creditor countries including debt sustainability and accountability.”

China’s giant economic zone, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, has been criticized as a debt trap in which Beijing sells infrastructure at low prices but uses loans to keep its partner countries in debt. The Quad countries will focus on the international principle of “quality infrastructure investment,” which was agreed among the Group of 20 economies at a 2019 summit in Osaka, and seek to differentiate themselves from China through transparent lending.