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According to the Bloomberg article Japan Astronauts to Soon Join U.S. in Trip to Mars, Trump Says:

The U.S. and Japan will “dramatically expand” their cooperation in outer space, with missions to Mars and the moon coming “very soon,” President Donald Trump said, as his administration challenges China for dominance beyond Earth’s orbit.

“Japan will join our mission to send U.S. astronauts to space,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Monday. “We’ll be going to the moon, we’ll be going to Mars very, very soon. It’s very exciting. From a military standpoint, there is nothing more important right now than space.

Since the acceleration of crewed space exploration is high on the current US president's administration's priority list as indicated by it's sudden goal to put boots on the Moon in five years, the president's statements about Japan's involvement during his visit to Japan involving one-on-one discussions with Japan's president must be based on some solid and tangible plans.

From here:

"The prime minister and I talked lot today about trade and military and various other things. I think we had a very productive day," Trump said at the start of the dinner after being handed his first course on a long wooden paddle.

Question: What is the US president talking about?

The last bit about the military standpoint is particularly intriguing.

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    $\begingroup$ Just remember the source is well known for off the cuff remarks which have no basis in actual policy @uhoh. $\endgroup$ – GdD May 28 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ Further comments from me on this line of enquiry may be considered off topic and otherwise not adhering to the code of conduct @uhoh.... $\endgroup$ – GdD May 28 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ I should have said that it was rhetorical, not "further"... something along the lines of you don't say! or imagine that! @GdD $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 28 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ You don't say @uhoh! ;) $\endgroup$ – GdD May 28 at 9:01
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Historically, Japan has been involved in international space collaboration. They built the Kibo module on the ISS as well as lots of the surrounding science hardware, and a few Japanese astronauts have done expeditions to the Station.

There are not many things better than an international treaty to make sure policy survives through multiple administrations. Before the ISS was International, it was going to be the US’s Space Station Freedom. Many people, even within NASA, were convinced this project would never be completed due to exorbitant costs and scope. The fall of the Soviet Union changed things, however. In order to avoid former Soviet rocket scientists going to unstable countries and building them ballistic missiles, the US adopted a policy of basically propping up the Russian space program with funding and collaboration. From this collaboration, new plans were drawn up for the now-international space station. There were now diplomatic consequences in place if the US didn’t fulfill its portion of the agreement.

The Trump administration is pro-space exploration for now. If Japan joins the international agreement(s) around the development of the Deep Space Gateway, there is more “critical mass” in favor of building the station as planned, on time. Presidents often see science/medicine as a big part of their lasting legacy, so being responsible for locking in another contributor to the US’s plan is great.

Japan will likely contribute through building a module or other hardware for the DSG, and they may get a Japanese astronaut on the moon in return.

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  • $\begingroup$ "...they may get a Japanese astronaut on the Moon..." or at least an ASIMO $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 28 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ do you think that the sentence "From a military standpoint, there is nothing more important right now than space" in the president's statement is probably unrelated? $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 28 at 7:00
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh Yes, unrelated. Japan is probably not involved in US space defenses. $\endgroup$ – CourageousPotato May 28 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ However, the US has anti-missile defenses at its bases in Japan $\endgroup$ – CourageousPotato May 28 at 12:15
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Japan has content on the SM-3 Block IIA missile, specifically the third stage and nose cone. It's been a cooperative program from the beginning, since Japan has a strong interest in stopping short and intermediate range ballistic missiles.

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