May 14, 2007:
The U.S. and
Japan have agreed to exchange vital intelligence information on an ongoing
basis. Japan will provide the United States with data from its BADGE (Base Air
Defense Ground Environment) system, while the U.S. will link Japanese air
defense headquarters with data about North Korea missile launches gathered from
American spy satellites and patrol aircraft.
The BADGE system includes
data feeds from 28 air defense radars, as well as sensors of aircraft in the
air. BADGE provides the most accurate picture of what's in Japanese air space.
Japan has long rebuffed American requests to share BADGE data on a regular
basis. The U.S. gets access to BADGE during joint training exercises (because
in wartime, the U.S. would have regular access to BADGE), but the Japanese were
touchy about having the Americans looking over their shoulders, so to speak,
all the time.
But Japan is very
concerned about North Korea ballistic missiles, and the increasingly unstable
North Korea government. Japan fears that things might unwind quickly in North
Korea, and missiles could get launched at Japan. Now that Japan is deploying
American Patriot anti-missile missiles, it wants the most warning of a North
Korean launch possible. Japan has its own sensors watching for North Korean
missile launches, but the addition of American sensor data is reassuring.
This cooperation enables
intelligence analysts from both countries to better monitor what's going on in
the air around Japan, which occasionally includes intrusions by Chinese and