David Bruggeman

As increasingly high-resolution satellite-derived imagery has entered the commercial market, remote sensing has become the subject of considerable attention in the United States and abroad. Although most East Asian remote sensing abilities are relatively primitive compared to those of the United States and Europe, the use of commercial imagery by regional powers in this region is growing. Satellite remote sensing has considerable dual-purpose utility. This chapter examines current remote sensing capabilities in five East Asian countries (China, Taiwan, Japan, North and South Korea), as well as key commercial developments. The shape of the nascent commercial remote sensing industry, US policies toward remote sensing, and the security environment in East Asia, will all be affected by remote sensing developments in the Pacific Rim.

Remote sensing has its origins in spy satellites, such as the US Corona and Soviet Zenit satellites, which took high resolution pictures of targets and dropped the film to earth for processing. Technological advances, such as the development of digital electronic sensors, allow satellites to gather images, and download that information directly to receiving stations on earth. This dramatically reduces the time between imaging and analysis, allowing faster response times with any remotely sensed information.
Remote sensing satellites can be divided into two broad categories, based on the resolution and scale of their imagery. Environmental observation satellites, such as Japan's Marine Observation Satellite (now defunct), have low resolution and produce broad-scale images. They usually monitor ocean temperature, changes in vegetation, or other large-scale environmental phenomena. With the exception of meteorological satellites, most environmental observation satellites have limited dual-use applications.
Other remote sensing satellites collect highly detailed, small-scale imagery, and have clear dual-purpose utility. Military and intelligence satellites are the ultimate example of this second category of remote sensing satellites. Today, satellite reconnaissance is an increasingly important intelligence gathering mechanism, with sensor resolutions on some military and intelligence satellites estimated to be better than 10 cm. While most imagery is in the visible spectrum, other parts of the spectrum are useful as well. For example, synthetic aperture radar sensors can penetrate cloud cover and the dark of night. Currently, visible light sensors with a resolution between 0.5 meters and 2 meters are considered high resolution.


Source: Canada Center for Remote Sensing


China is one of Asia's more advanced nations in terms of overall space capabilities. As part of its development of space systems, China has worked to modernize its satellite remote sensing capabilities. China's remote sensing systems range from mid-to-high resolution imagery satellites to low-resolution earth resource and meteorological satellites. China's satellite remote sensing systems are diverse, but comparatively primitive compared to those in India, Europe, and the United States.
Table 1 describes current Chinese remote sensing programs. Future deployments are expected. Some experts have speculated that China is developing an FSW-3 series, a significant improvement on the FSW-2. However, there is no evidence in the open literature that such a system has been developed or deployed. The Feng Yun series has been hampered by the loss of Feng Yun 2B in April 1998. The most recent Feng Yun satellite was launched June 25, 2000. 1 The FY-3 series is scheduled for launch in 2001. Such a system would reportedly be a second-generation LEO observation satellite with more advanced multispectral capability. Fanhui Shi Weixing was China's first remote sensing satellite, and has not only been used for intelligence gathering, but has also carried scientific experiments to orbit.

Fanhui Shi Weixing (FSW)-retrievable sats
-3 series (0-2)
-17 launches
Imagery/Reconnaissance/some scientific missions 10-15 m Photographic and CCD cameras Started in 1975 18th flight delayed since late 1998
Feng Yun (FY)- "Wind and Cloud"
- 2 series
- 5 launches
Meteorological 1-4 km 5 and 10 channel Very High Resolution Scanning Radiometers (VHSRR) Started in 1988 1 active satellite
China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite
Environmental Imagery 20 m (CCD) Infrared CCD camera Infrared multi-spectral scanner Started in 1999 1 launch 2nd planned Imagery sale planned3
Zi Yuan (ZY)- resource satellite
-2 launches
- CBERS-type bus?
Environmental imagery/ earth resource 20 m (?) Infrared camera, multispectral ZY-2 launched 9/1/004

Other Chinese earth observation projects in development include the Haiyang-1 mission (ocean observation), a constellation of LEO Earth Resources satellites (Zi Yuan 2), and possibly a radar satellite, which would overcome southern China's frequent cloud cover. China also purchases remote sensing data from Landsat (a Landsat ground station is located in China), the Japanese JRS-1 system, SPOT, ERS-1 and 2, and Radarsat International.
China faces three major goals and challenges in developing its own remote sensing systems. 5 First, there is an increasing demand within China, and worldwide, for satellite applications to assist in reconnaissance, resource monitoring and disaster assessment and response, among other uses. Second, China would like to decrease its reliance on data from foreign satellites. A reduced dependence on foreign sources of data would make it far more difficult for other nations to deny China access to data. Finally, China is seeking to establish itself as a world-class space power. A high quality, high-resolution indigenous remote sensing capability would further this goal. Additional steps would include a refinement of China's real-time sensing abilities, a constellation of satellites to expand remote sensing coverage, and development of indigenous analysis ability. All of these abilities would be prerequisites not only for economic development but also for any future successful Chinese military actions in the region. 6

Taiwan is in the midst of an ambitious 15-year plan to develop its space science and technology capability. This plan started in 1991, and includes a strong focus on satellite development. Taiwan has three main satellite programs (all called ROCSAT) in various stages of development. Table 2 outlines the ROCSAT programs.

ROCSAT 1 Environmental Observation Visible and Near-Infrared - 800 m Ocean Color Scanner Launched 1999
ROCSAT 2 Imagery Panchromatic - 5 m
Multispectral - 20 m
Panchromatic CCD
Multi-spectral scanner
Scheduled for 2002
ROCSAT 3 (constellation of 8) Weather and Environmental Observation N/A GPS receiver, ionospheric photometer Scheduled for 2002

ROCSAT 2 and 3 would surpass current Chinese capabilities. Future Taiwanese efforts are likely to focus on development of indigenous space capabilities. Taiwan's ROCSAT-2 will focus on imaging Taiwan for civilian and scientific purposes. However, this system will also be able to image mainland China and other parts of East Asia. Thus, it would be advantageous as an early warning system to track deployments of Chinese military assets. Future Taiwanese remote sensing systems may also be suitable for commercial sales of imagery.

Japan has a highly advanced remote sensing program and has cooperated extensively with both Europe and the United States in developing instruments and sharing data. However, because of the tight restrictions on Japan's ability to develop its military services, the security utility of remote sensing and other space applications have only recently been explored. Japan's Space Law prohibits Japan from directly engaging in military space activities. In 1998, Japan explored developing its own reconnaissance satellite, largely in response to the 1998 Taepo Dong launch by North Korea. The proposal was carefully worded to emphasize the satellite's multi-use capabilities (it would also be used for monitoring natural disasters, weather, and smuggling operations), and its defensive orientation. As currently envisioned, this system will be a constellation of four satellites, two with 1-m optical resolution and the other two with radar imaging capabilities. Although the United States and Japan have a long history of cooperation on environmental observation satellites, Japan has decided to develop this system independently. Japanese firms will develop and build this system, despite heavy lobbying by US firms for a role. 9 The Japanese push for independent capabilities will likely lessen, but not replace, its dependence on the United States as a source for imagery intelligence.
As evident from Table 3, Japan has a full schedule of current and future remote sensing projects. A successor to the GMS family, the Multi-Functional Transport Satellite, was expected to launch in late 1999, however, the H-2 vehicle on which it was launched was destroyed after straying off course. 10 A replacement satellite has been scheduled for launch during fiscal year 2002. The Multi-Functional Transport satellite would handle communications traffic, as well as weather tracking. A second ADEOS mission is scheduled for launch in late 2001. 11
Japan is currently developing the Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS). 12 Scheduled for launch in 2002, ALOS will carry numerous sensors, including a SAR sensor, and several visible and near-infrared sensors, which are more advanced than those used in ADEOS. SAR resolution will be 8 m, with panchromatic and multispectral resolution of 2.5 and 10 m, respectively. 13 Negotiations are in progress for sharing these data with the United States and the Europeans.

Geostationary Meteorological Satellite (GMS) (GEO)
5 satellites
Meteorological Visible - 1.25 km
Infrared - 5 km
Visible & Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer (VISSR).
search and rescue transponder
Started in 1977
Currently 1 active, 1 backup (140° and 120°E)
Marine Observation Satellite (MOS) 2 satellites Ocean Observation Visible - 900 m Infrared - 2.7 km Multispectral - 50 m Multispectral Electronic Self-Scanning, Visible, and Thermal Infrared radiometers;
Data Collection System Transponders
Started in 1987
MOS-1 (1987-1995)
MOS-2 (1990-1996)
Japan Earth Resources Satellite (JERS-1)
1 satellite
Earth Observation Multispectral - 13 m
SAR - 18 m
OPS multispectral sensor
8 segment SAR sensor
Started in 1992
Outlived useful life in 1998
Advanced Earth Observation Satellite (ADEOS) Earth Observation Visible - 8 m
Infrared - 16 m
Advanced Visible and Near-lit Radiometer
Ocean Color and Temperature Scanner
Multinational payload
Launched in 1996, failed in 199714
ADEOS II Earth Observation- follow-up to ADEOS Visible and near infrared infrared, synthetic aperture radar, microwave, electro-optical and multi-spectral imagers Scheduled for launch in late 2001
Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) Earth Observation Visible and near infrared- visible resolution of 1 m /infrared of 2.5 m Exact instrument complement in planning Scheduled for launch in 2002

Future efforts in Japanese remote sensing will depend in part on the success of ALOS and ADEOS-2, as well as on the successful deployment of their reconnaissance satellites in 2002. Japan plans to develop a system of global earth observation satellites, made up of high and low resolution satellites, in LEO and geosyncronous orbits. Problems with the H-2 launch vehicle have delayed the successful deployment of these systems. Japan also participates in the international Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), a joint project with NASA. Launched in 1997, TRMM is made up of five sensors focused on collecting data on the distribution and intensity of tropical rainfall. Japan contributed the Japanese Precipitation Radar, which provides data for three-dimensional storm system maps. 15

South Korea, a relative newcomer to the space applications sector, has pursued remote sensing capabilities as part of its focus on developing dual-use space technologies, and has built or acquired three remote sensing satellites. Uribyol 1 was launched in August 1992 with the French Topex/Poseidon mission. This microsat (50 kilograms) carried two CCD cameras, as did Uribyol 2, launched in September 1993. One of the CCD cameras in Uribyol 2 was of South Korean design. 16 The third satellite is the Korea Multipurpose Satellite (KOMPSAT), launched in December 1999. 17 Developed by Korea with the help of TRW, KOMPSAT's instruments (a 10-m resolution CCD camera, ocean color imaging camera, an ionosphere measurement sensor, and a high-energy particle detector) 18 are intended to observe the Korean peninsula and surrounding ocean. In March 2000, an Israeli firm sold South Korea a 1-m resolution camera, which South Korea is likely to include in later generations of KOMPSAT. 19 South Korea is likely to use KOMPSAT in pursuit of national security, civilian, and commercial aims. South Korea is focused on developing its own capabilities, and reducing dependence on foreign nations. Thus far, South Korea has launched its satellites from the United States, but is working to develop a domestic launch capacity. It expects to launch its own satellite from a South Korean facility on indigenously developed launch vehicles by 2005. 20

Because of North Korea's closed society and autocratic government, there is a dearth of information on North Korean space capability. North Korean actions, including the 1998 launch of a Taepo Dong 1 missile, and the failed launch of the Kwangmyongsong satellite at that time demonstrates a strong interest in developing its space capability. 21 While the DPRK has no known indigenous remote sensing systems, it is likely that the government recognizes the value of high-resolution systems for intelligence gathering or other purposes. Commercially available remote sensing systems may prove useful to North Korea. North Korea's awareness of the utility of commercial space assets is demonstrated by its reported leasing of transponder space on a Thai communications satellite, in order to assist in tracking its missile flights. 22 Although US law prohibits sales of data from US satellite to North Korea, it would be comparatively simple for North Korea to purchase high-resolution imagery of South Korea through secondary agents. However, unless North Korea can either pay for imagery analysis, or develops a cadre of its own analysts, the utility of such data would be seriously limited.

Commercial remote sensing is still a very young industry, and, very often, commercial providers are highly dependent upon sales to government agencies. Tables 4 and 5 detail selected current and near-future commercial remote sensing systems.

Space Imaging (Ikonos) 24 United States Panchromatic: 0.8 m
Multispectral: 3-4 m
[License for 0.5 meter granted in Dec 2000]
$12-$17/ft2 in North America
$29-$44/ft2 outside North America
US Geological Survey/NASA (Landsat 7) 25 United States Panchromatic: 15 m
Multispectral: 30 m
Level Zero R $475/scene
Level One $600/scene
SPOT Image, SA (SPOT-4) 26 France Panchromatic: 10 m
Multispectral: 30 m
Radarsat International27 (Radarsat-1) Canada SAR: 8 m $4000-$5250/area
SOVINFORMSPUTNIK/ SPIN-228 (Resurs/SPIN-2) Russia Panchromatic: 1 m $25/km229
Antrix (Indian Space Research Organization) (IRS-1C & D) India Panchromatic: 5.8 m
23.5 m visible, near-IR
70.5 m shortwave IR

United States Panchromatic: 0.8 m
Multispectral: 4 m
October 2001
Orbimage (Orbview 3 and 4) United States Panchromatic: 0.6 m
Multispectral: 2.5 m
Hyperspectral: 24 m31
Orb 4- 2001
Orb 3- 2001
Spot Image, SA (SPOT-5) France Panchromatic: 2.5 m
Multispectral: 10 m
MacDonald Dettwiler (Radarsat-2) Canada SAR: 3 to 100 m 2003
ImageSat (previously West Indies Space) (EROS-A and B) Israel/United States Panchromatic: 1.8 m (A) and .8 m (B) 2001- 2003

While initially the United States dominated the remote sensing industry, it is increasingly faced with competition from around the world. The companies listed in both Table 4 and Table 5 suggest the growing diversity of this industry. In addition to the companies listed here, South Korean ventures are both expected to enter the commercial remote sensing market.
The United States is a very strong player in commercial remote sensing. US regulations reflect both the desire to maintain a strong market share in supplying data and an awareness of remote sensing's critical national security applications. While the United States is no longer the only country with an important stake in commercial remote sensing, its companies continue to dominate, and its practices and polices have wide-ranging effects. Commercial remote sensing systems licensed in the United States operate under specific restrictions. Generally speaking, the Licensee is obligated to "operate the system in a manner that preserves the national security and observes the international obligations and foreign policies of the United States." 32 Key obligations include the following:

Clearly US licensees are subject to serious restrictions on what data they can sell, and to which entities they can sell. Several other nations have adopted similar policies. For example, the Canadians have devised a regime similar to US shutter control for their Radarsat program. However, not since the Gulf War has the United States or any other country has exercised shutter control, and the United States has yet to exercise any of its other controls over commercial remote sensing.
It is difficult to predict how US regulations will impact the growth of commercial remote sensing. The US government has yet to formulate guidelines for implementing these regulations, 34 and there have been, as yet, no test cases. The remote sensing industry is cautiously optimistic that US restrictions will be implemented only in extraordinary circumstances. However, it is possible that if and when the United States acts on its regulations, this could have a chilling effect on the commercial remote sensing market. Industry officials have expressed concern that the negative impact would be similar to what happened similar to the US satellite market in 1999 when export control authority was shifted back to the State Department from the Commerce Department.
The commercial remote sensing industry is still in its infancy. While many are optimistic about industry growth, it is hard to say how quick this growth will be, or how much of a commercial market there is for remote sensing data and images. In any event, East Asian countries are likely to increase their use and purchase high-resolution commercial imagery. The price is comparatively low, especially for security uses, and it seems likely that these governments will take advantage of commercial sources until they develop their own capabilities.
The presence of non-US commercial providers of this type of imagery must be a consideration for US policy-makers. Stringent imposition of US license requirements may shift demand away from the US industry and toward foreign companies. Thus, overly zealous licensing requirements could hinder the growth of US commercial remote sensing firms.

Future remote sensing issues extend beyond US license restrictions. Given the long-standing tensions inherent in East Asia, and the recent added stress of North Korean missile development, the potential for conflict is moderately high. Possible sources of conflict include missile launches by China over Taiwan, or North Korea over any country; territorial disputes in the Spratley or Kiril islands; or an armed conflict between China and Taiwan.
Each potential conflict is problematic even without the complications added by use of remote sensing imagery. Remote sensing imagery is an increasingly important source of intelligence. While increasing transparency can lessen tensions, it might also escalate tensions and widen the scope of conflicts. Some issues to consider:

For example, imagery analysts have suggested the use of remote sensing imagery to help clarify and defuse the territorial dispute over the Spratley Islands. High-resolution aerial images can detect and assess the controversial activities there, and moderate resolution imagery can be useful for ship detection. 35 Cooperative imaging regimes may allow for monitoring all civilian and military activity in the area without provoking an armed incident. Remote sensing is preferable to airplane surveillance, because imaging satellites operate from international territory in space, and are not at risk of being misinterpreted as a fighter-bomber. 36
These issues are of interest to any country with satellite capability and/or a strategic interest in the region. The United States has long-term alliances with two of the countries in the region (Japan and South Korea), and has complex relations with China, Taiwan, and North Korea. Even in the case of a regional conflict that doesn't directly involve the United States, the United States may have sufficient regional interests that it will use its commercial and governmental space systems and/or diplomatic weight to shape such a conflict. Even in the absence of US government involvement, a US-based commercial remote sensing firm may become involved through its sale of imagery to parties in the region.
Shutter Control- Given the ambiguous nature of US government shutter control regulations, the potential exists for other countries to try to persuade the United States to exercise shutter control during a conflict. In a conflict between China and Taiwan, for example, either nation might attempt to purchase commercial imagery (likely from a US firm), or ask the United States to impose shutter control over the area. There are also situations where the United States may seek to persuade other governments or firms either to impose shutter control or provide imagery to the United States or a third party, as a favor to the United States.
The US government has stated it will impose shutter control only where US national security is threatened. Thus, unless US forces are involved or US territory is threatened, imposing shutter control is likely to be difficult and politically unpopular, but still theoretically possible. Instead of exercising shutter control, which would set an uncomfortable precedent and possibly damage the commercial sector, the United States may, instead, work to persuade commercial firms (or other nations) voluntarily to refrain from imaging territory in conflict. This might be done via such incentives as guaranteed US government business. US-led cooperative control of remote sensing practices is likely to be more effective than a US attempt to impose a more coercive control regime.
Damage to Commercial Systems - As the intelligence value of satellite imagery increases, both satellites and control facilities are becoming possible targets in a conflict. Space systems may be targeted through direct assault, or through sabotage and other less overt means. If the satellite or ground station is owned and operated by one of the governments involved in the conflict, it would be considered a casualty of war. If the asset is a commercial satellite, especially one from a business in a country not involved in the conflict, the situation would be more much complex.
If a commercial satellite system were destroyed, the home government of the firm's country would likely become involved. It is difficult to predict the degree of government involvement, or what the result of such involvement would be. Robust government response is more likely if the government has partial ownership of the space asset (such as the SPOT satellites), or if government-owned instruments were carried on the destroyed satellite. The response may take the form of diplomatic action, commercial sanctions, or even, possibly, military retaliation. This is a new area of concern for the international community. It seems that nations are increasingly seeing commercial space systems as potentially legitimate targets that, in turn, require protection. For example, China has made statements that suggest that if the United States proceeds with missile defense, China would consider US commercial satellites a legitimate target during a conflict.
Challenge of Imagery Analysis - The ability to obtain high-quality imagery of territory alone is not enough to benefit a nation's civil or military sector. Benefiting from remote sensing data requires the ability to analyze the raw data and turn them into useful information. This often involves merging remote sensing data with other geospatial information such as GPS or detailed maps. Faulty analysis can lessen the utility of satellite imagery, and can lead to disastrous results. Even the United States, with its long history and vast experience in remote sensing is not immune to this kind of mistake, as shown by the accidental destruction of the Chinese Embassy during the Kosovo conflict. For the East Asian countries, which, except for China and Japan, have only recently delved into remote sensing, proper imagery analysis is even more of a challenge.
The Asian nations are attempting to gain some indigenous analysis capability. There are also commercial firms that perform imagery analysis, and such firms may provide a valuable resource to nations who have not yet developed their own analysis capability. Countries are also seeking transfer of this knowledge and expertise through cooperation with countries with imagery analytic experience, or by purchasing firms with such ability. For example, Japanese imagery analysis ability is far more capable than its neighbors, in part because of extensive cooperation with the United States. China appears to being pursuing the latter route, for reports suggest that imagery analysts are among the Russian specialists China has hired in recent years.

Today, Taiwan, China, Japan, North and South Korea are clearly aware of the possible advantages of high-resolution remote sensing, for commercial, civil, and military applications. However, none of these nations yet have an indigenous capability, though Japan and China are fairly close to achieving it. Until the Asian nations develop their own capabilities, they will continue on depend on commercial firms to meet some of their imagery needs. Doing business with US firms implies the necessity of abiding by significant restrictions. As these restrictions have not been fully tested, there is still uncertainty about how much the US government will exploit its control over the commercial sector in order to achieve US foreign policy objectives. Thus, the degree to which the Pacific Rim nations, especially China and North Korea, can rely on access to commercial remote sensing firms to pursue their own foreign policy objectives is still unclear.
Commercial remote sensing firms will face risks in doing business in the East Asian countries, particularly in times of conflict. In times of conflict, diplomatic pressures regarding shutter control could become intense, and firms will be faced with a decision about where they draw the line between free commerce and government pressure. Commercial space assets or space assets of a non-participating government may be casualties of regional conflict. As remote sensing grows and becomes more commercial in nature, the industry is likely to face significant challenges. Since satellite remote sensing inherently serves both civil and national security applications, commercial remote sensing firms will be faced with issues beyond those that face other international businesses. Political and security concerns, as well as business plans, will shape the remote sensing industry. Nowhere is this as clear as in the Asia-Pacific, a region increasingly prepared to use remote sensing data, whether both commercially procured or indigenous, as a tool for peace or a weapon of war.


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