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Monday, March 4, 2024

Korea to take part in U.S.-led space training event this month

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Participants in the Global Sentinel ’24 initial planning conference pose for a picture at the Vandenberg History Museum in California on March 1, 2023. [U.S. SPACE FORCE/LUKE KITTERMAN]
Participants in the Global Sentinel ’24 initial planning conference pose for a picture at the Vandenberg History Museum in California on March 1, 2023. [U.S. SPACE FORCE/LUKE KITTERMAN]

The Air Force and Korean space experts will join the U.S.-led multinational space training event Global Sentinel this month, the Air Force announced on Monday.

Air Force officers, including members of the Air Force Operations Command in charge of space security, as well as members of the Army, Navy, Agency for Defense Development and Korea Aerospace Research Institute, will be taking part in Global Sentinel 2024 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, the Air Force said in a statement Monday.

The Korean officers and experts will work with those from Japan, New Zealand and Australia during the training.

Global Sentinel takes place every two years in the United States, bringing together experts on space surveillance, safety and security from nearly 30 countries worldwide.

Korea participated in five previous Global Sentinel events.

This year, some 250 experts from 28 countries will participate in joint exercises responding to virtual scenarios in space, including satellite collisions.

The multinational training comes amid escalating U.S.-China rivalry in space security.

Beijing launched an experimental spacecraft for the third time in December last year without specifying its mission other than that it would conduct space experiments and return to a designated landing site in China after being in orbit for some time, according to local reports.

Washington was planning to launch the military’s X-37B spaceplane into space on Dec. 14 last year — the same day Beijing launched its spaceplane Shenlong for the third time — but canceled the launch at the last minute due to unspecified technical issues.

The U.S. robot spaceplane was launched into orbit later on Dec. 28.

In recent years, Washington has expanded cooperation in space technology with its key allies in Asia, including Seoul and Tokyo.

It established a space command within U.S. Forces Korea in 2022 and was reportedly considering the same within U.S. Forces Japan.

Space cooperation was highlighted in trilateral meetings, including the Camp David summit between Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in August last year.

In their joint statement, the three leaders agreed to expand cooperation on open radio access networks and further enhance dialogue on space security cooperation, “particularly regarding threats in the space domain, national space strategies, and the responsible use of space.”

In recent months, Washington and Seoul have also jointly analyzed the extent of space cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang, including during their regular Space Cooperation Working Group meeting and joint tabletop exercise on space hosted in Seoul last September.

North Korea launched a space launch vehicle carrying a military reconnaissance satellite on May 31 last year, setting off air raid alarms across Seoul. In November last year, the regime launched a spy satellite into space, likely with technical aid from Russia.

In recent years, South Korea has ramped up its space forces, particularly after Washington and Seoul agreed to abolish missile guidelines in 2021 that banned South Korea from developing and possessing any type of missile, including intercontinental ballistic missiles and advanced submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The following year, South Korea established a new branch within the Joint Chiefs of Staff to focus on the space security domain.

Since October 2021, Seoul has successfully launched its domestically developed space rocket, Nuri, three times. The country is gearing up for the fourth launch in the second half of 2025.

BY ESTHER CHUNG,LEE YU-JUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]