Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting Estonian counterpart Taavi Roivas pledged Friday to strengthen cooperation on cybersecurity and digital identification technology.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Tokyo after their meeting in Tokyo, Abe touted the Baltic state as being good at information technology and cybersecurity, and said Japan is placing great importance on the field in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“There is much we can learn from Estonia, which holds IT as the central pillar of nation-building, thereby promoting better efficiency in administration and people’s lives,” Abe said.
Roivas is on a six-day visit to Japan through Sunday, his first since assuming office in March 2014.
Roivas praised the My Number national identification system launched this year as a cornerstone in building a digital network to handle most interactions involving government, individuals and business.
“Adopting My Number is a remarkable achievement and potentially a huge step forward for digital Japan, and it’s also a great example of how our two countries can work together,” Roivas said.
Although basic compared with Estonia’s comprehensive e-government system, My Number gives each resident a 12-digit ID number to simplify taxation and social security procedures. It is comparable with the U.S. social security system.
Public opinion on My Number, however, remains split because of data breaches that have compromised both the public and private sectors, including a huge leak at the Japan Pension Service in May last year.
“Estonia was the first country, in 2007, to be attacked by a full-scale cyberattack and we managed to defend ourselves — we used that experience as a case study to learn and to further develop our knowledge,” Roivas said in an interview on Wednesday.
The 2007 attacks, which occurred amid tension with Russia, brought government, finance and media websites to a standstill, prompting Estonia to overhaul its defenses in collaboration with experts from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.
The following year, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence was established in the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
“(Japan) can take the positives out of cyberattacks in terms of learning to defend yourselves,” Roivas said.
In Friday’s talks, Abe and Roivas affirmed their shared desire for the swift conclusion of an economic partnership agreement being negotiated between Japan and the 28-nation European Union, of which Estonia is a member. Roivas called for the signing of the free trade pact before the end of this year.
The leaders also vowed to speed up negotiations for a bilateral tax treaty aimed at boosting business cooperation.
In a sign of increasing business ties between the two countries, Roivas met Rakuten Inc. President Hiroshi Mikitani on Wednesday to explore further collaboration with the e-commerce giant.
Abe and Roivas also condemned attempts to force shifts in the geopolitical status quo, including what they called the “illegal annexation” of the Crimea region in eastern Ukraine by Russia in 2014. Their reference to such attempts was also a veiled criticism of China’s increased muscle-flexing in the East China and South China seas.