18 April 2013. Issue 66 of ESPI Perspective series examines Asian nations´ regional cooperation in space. After outlining the specificities and dynamics of Asia’s political context, the author investigates the reasons behind the establishment of the different regional space organisations. An overview of the respective policies, initiatives and current status of current programmes is provided subsequently. This in turn is used as a basis to outline the prospects for future cooperation in space activities among Asian nations. Finally, some considerations on the relevance of Asian space regionalism for future space governance and sustainability are presented.
In recent years, the astonishing growth of Asian nations' space activities has increasingly captured the attention of the international space community. Whereas competition between East Asian nations in the field of space has already been addressed in several studies, the relevance and the potential of the ongoing cooperative efforts have been generally underestimated or dismissed as a mere soft power tool. This perspective examines efforts made in the direction of regional space integration in Asia, which is mainly being pursued through the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organisation (APSCO) and the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF).These cooperative undertakings have already produced tangible results in terms of economic gains, know-how exchange and improvement of capabilities. Despite the fact that they still remain fragmented and divided on lines of political orientation, their institutional interplay appears to be coming closer. Even though this might not lead to the integration of APSCO and APRSAF, it will at least result in more efficient coordination among Asian nations’ space activities. In addition, the institutionalisation and activities of these regional cooperative mechanisms are raising awareness of the socio-economic, scientific and also security-related benefits cooperation can bring. Potentially, it might also transform the dominant trends of competition into a win-win approach.