The United States will extend its cyberdefense umbrella over Japan, helping its ally cope with the growing threat of online attacks against military bases and infrastructure such as power grids, the two nations said in a joint statement Saturday.
“We note a growing level of sophistication among malicious cyberactors, including nonstate and state-sponsored actors,” they said in a statement released by the U.S.-Japan Cyber Defense Policy Working Group, which was established in 2013.
Cybersecurity is a key area where Japan and the United States are deepening their military partnership under a set of new security guidelines released in April that will also integrate their ballistic missile defense systems and give Tokyo a bigger security role in Asia as China’s military might grows.
Both the United States and Japan are wary of cyberthreats, including potential attacks from China and North Korea. While the United States is investing heavily in building a force to counter and retaliate against online attacks, Japan, which hosts the biggest U.S. military contingent in Asia, has been slower to buttress its cyberdefenses.
The Self-Defense Forces cyberdefense unit has around 90 members, compared to over 6,000 people at the Pentagon, a Defense Ministry official said at a briefing in Tokyo on Thursday.
Japan is trying to catch up as it prepares to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and with cyberattacks on the rise. Assaults on government websites are now being detected every few seconds, according to Japanese cyberdefense experts.
In Saturday’s statement, the Defense Ministry pledged to contribute to “efforts for addressing various cyberthreats, including those against Japanese critical infrastructure and services utilized by the SDF and U.S. Forces.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who met with Defense Minister Gen Nakatani in Singapore on Saturday at the Asia Security Summit conference, unveiled a more muscular military cyberstrategy in April that stressed an ability to retaliate with cyberweapons.
That strengthened deterrence comes in the wake of high-profile attacks against corporations, including the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. last year, which the U.S. blamed on North Korea.