Japan Gives Vietnam a Major Space Exploration Boost

Japan's $480 million investment in Vietnam's fledgling space industry will improve Japan's galactic public image and give Vietnam its own set of eyes in outer space.

NASA

Let's take a minute to untangle a bunch of innovation-related news from the Far East.

First off, Japan is jumping right into advanced scientific and technological support in its latest dose of "official development assistance" to Vietnam, loans amounting to $480 million for space exploration. The news comes as Japan has declared China a less-than-friendly place to do business, while seeing Vietnam and India as increasingly more attractive countries to invest in.

The loans are to be spent on three projects--two observation satellites, an Earth-based space center, and the training of engineers by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The space center will be established just west of the northern city of Hanoi in the Hoa Lac High-Tech Park and will accommodate satellite testing facilities, as well as a data analysis office. And the goal of training the local Vietnamese engineers is ultimately knowledge transfer.

But the mission is not an entirely selfless one--according to the The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan is looking to increase its space technology know-how and corresponding public image. The country has also announced plans to launch its own GPS satellites, rather than depend on the network of the United States.

In related news, the government-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation recently released survey results indicating that India has overtaken China as the most attractive market for Japan to do business in, thereby snubbing Japan's neighbor--and recent rare earth scandal-plagued frenemy--China. (Japan was one of China's early victims when China cut off rare earth exports to the country after a fishing boat-related argument.) Cozying it up with India, on top of fortifying technological, industrial, and "aid" ties with China's other neighbor, Vietnam, is sure to help Japan keep tabs on nearby China.

And as for Vietnam, the country has been relying on weather and natural disaster-related data from a French satellite for years and has asserted that it's high time for it to get its own satellites. So the new $480 million loan is win-win for Japan--as they get to boost their space industry image--and Vietnam finally gets its own satellites. As for China? Well they're not too worried about much at this point--they've amassed about 97% of the world's rare earths supply, are restricting exports, and are now hiking up prices. They're in pretty good shape for world domination, no matter what Japan and Vietnam can dream up.

Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.

[NASA images]

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