USSPACECOM leaders travel to Indo-Pacific

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  • U.S. Space Command Public Affairs

Gen. Stephen Whiting, commander of U.S. Space Command, and Chief Master Sgt. Jacob Simmons, USSPACECOM command senior enlisted leader, embarked upon their first international trip as a combatant command team to the U.S. Indo-Pacific area of responsibility April 18-28.

“It is a privilege to be here to represent the women and men who work tirelessly to fulfill our moral obligation of providing global space capabilities to the Joint Force, our nation, and our alliance partners, and to discuss ways we can expand our cooperation and contributions to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Whiting said. “Like USINDOPACOM, we are seriously focused on our pacing challenge, the People’s Republic of China. And we find that when we operate in a unified fashion with our allies and partners, that builds deterrence and ensures that there will never be a day without space for our militaries and for our national populations.”

The first stop of the multi-day trip included meetings in Hawaii where Whiting met with the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Navy Adm. John C. Aquilino, military service component commanders, and USSPACECOM’s Joint Integrated Space Team. Discussions focused on multidomain threats posed by the PRC, concerns with increasing cooperation between competitor nations including the PRC, Russia, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as opportunities for greater Joint Force and partner nation integration.

“The People’s Republic of China is moving at breathtaking speed in space, and they are rapidly developing a range of counter-space weapons to hold at risk our space capabilities, but they’re also using space to make their terrestrial forces more precise, more lethal, and more far-ranging,” Whiting said. “As we have seen with the events in the European and Central Command theater of operations, the value of space is just foundational to all that we do in the military arena, and so we must protect and defend our space capabilities.”

While in Hawaii, Simmons participated in a first-of-its-kind subject matter exchange with 30 senior enlisted leaders from 21 nations at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. The exchange was initiated in 2023 and developed to enhance regional professionalism across military forces.

“Space is not just a supporting domain, it’s a pivotal domain,” Simmons said, emphasizing the evolving challenges and opportunities that space presents. He spoke on integrating space capabilities with terrestrial military operations to ensure comprehensive defense readiness and the importance of collaboration among Indo-Pacific nations in promoting responsible behavior in space, ensuring a sustainable and secure environment for all.

Next Whiting and Simmons traveled to the Republic of Korea, where they met with the Commander of U.S. Forces Korea U.S. Army Gen. Paul LaCamera and his staff to explore ways of leveraging USSPACECOM’s expertise and capabilities to fortify the defensive posture on the peninsula.

LaCamera accompanied Whiting and Simmons to meetings with U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Philip S. Goldberg, Adm. Kim Myung-Soo, Chairman of the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior government and military officials to discuss opportunities to strengthen capabilities and systems for combined space operations. Whiting also highlighted the excellent work in the trilateral agreement between the United States, the ROK, and Japan to share missile warning information to provide integrated warning to national leaders, military forces and the population.

Whiting and team concluded their time on the peninsula visiting U.S. and ROK service members at Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base, including an immersion with the U.S. Space Force’s 5th Space Warning Squadron, providing a tactical perspective of the integration of space and missile warning capabilities.

The USSPACECOM visit came on the heels of noteworthy alliance and trilateral engagements in Washington, D.C. mid-April, including the 24th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue and the historic Trilateral Summit involving the U.S., Japan and Philippine forces, efforts which recommitted the nations to defending peace and security in the region and upholding ironclad alliance agreements.

Following the Republic of Korea, Whiting and Simmons continued to Japan, where they met with Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and his staff to discuss the recent trilateral summit, but also the incredible progress Japan has made in the space domain and opportunities to further strengthen the ironclad Alliance.

Additionally, Whiting and Simmons had exchanges with Director General Jun Kazeki, Japan’s National Space Policy Secretariat, Cabinet Office; the Japan Air Self Defense Force’s Space Operations Group Col. Kimitoshi Sugiyama and Warrant Officer Ueji Tadayoshi, SOG senior enlisted advisor. They were also hosted by Kenji Mikami, Executive Director, Quasi-Zenith Satellite System Strategy Office; and Tomonori Sato, President, Defense and Space Systems at Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, to receive an update on the QZSS Hosted Payload, which is a pathfinding national security space cooperation initiative between the U.S. and Japan.

At the Ministry of Defense headquarters, Whiting and Simmons had office calls with Japan’s Minister of Defense Minoru Kihara; Japan Joint Staff Chairman Gen. Yoshihide Yoshida; and Japan Air and Self Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Hiroaki Uchikura. Simmons also met with a number of senior enlisted advisors during his visit, to include Warrant Officers Osamu Kai, Hiroyasu Kochaku, Kosuke Watahiki, and Toshikya Araki. Throughout these engagements leaders committed to enhance bilateral cooperation, including space domain awareness and the importance of adhering to norms of responsible behavior. Whiting also took the opportunity to congratulate Japanese leaders on their recent inclusion into the Combined Space Operations Initiative, as well as the recent announcement of Japan’s participation in the Artemis program.

“While traveling to the region, it has been a great opportunity to discuss with our Japanese and Korean partners the importance of space to our shared alliance and importance of space to how we defend our nations.” Whiting said. “We do that through a number of means – through shared exercises and tabletop war games, through collaboration between operational units, and we look forward to expanding those as we move forward.”

Whiting and his staff concluded their trip at U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll, which is composed of the two islands Kwajalein and Roi-Namur in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and home to the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Reagan Test Site and the Space Force’s Space Fence radar system.

Whiting and Simmons toured the island’s operational sensors which provide unique capabilities in support of national test and space missions. They also saw the recovery efforts which the Kwajalein Garrison, under the leadership of U.S. Army Col. Drew Morgan and Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Miller, have undertaken to restore mission operations and base support infrastructure following a rogue wave event in late-January 2024.

“Kwajalein is one of the Army’s and Joint Force’s most remote locations, yet the innovative and dedicated Soldiers, civilians, contractors, and Navy Seabees assigned and attached to the garrison have done incredible work to protect lives, rebuild base services, and return their nationally-vital sensors to operations,” Whiting said. “It was a privilege to witness their outstanding work firsthand.”

U.S. Space Command, working with allies and partners, plans, executes, and integrates military spacepower into multi-domain global operations in order to deter aggression, defend national interests, and when necessary, defeat threats.