With China and Russia making ground on their respective space programs and cyber capabilities, as well as becoming a possible threat, the United States and Japan have decided to join forces in strengthening and protecting their interests in the same areas. The nations agreed that Washington's commitment to defend Tokyo under the bilateral security treaty extends to cyberattacks, making it the first such affirmation between the two allies. The foreign and defense ministers of the two countries underscored that the protection of Japan provided by the United States extends to major cyberattacks on nuclear power plants and Self-Defense Forces facilities.
"The ministers affirmed that international law applies in cyberspace and that a cyberattack could, in certain circumstances, constitute an armed attack for the purposes of Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty," they said in a joint statement issued after a meeting in Washington.
The ministers also emphasized their obligation to lead international efforts in enforcing UN sanctions on North Korea-including combating unlawful ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum and sales of coal and other prohibited commodities-to force Pyongyang to denuclearize. Speaking at a joint news conference after the meeting, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya requested cooperation from the US in investigating the crash of an F-35A fighter in the Pacific during a recent Japanese Air Self-Defense Force exercise.
Despite the accident, acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan expressed appreciation for Japan buying F-35s and other US-built assets as part of efforts to promote interoperability. The so-called two-plus-two security meeting, the first since August 2017, also brought together Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The four ministers confirmed coordination in cross-domain operations involving the usual ground, sea and air arenas, as well as priority areas of space, cyberspace and on the electromagnetic scale that enables the disruption of radio waves and the jamming of global positioning systems.
"The ministers highlighted the need to address these challenges jointly to ensure the alliance's superiority in a contingency and to safeguard our institutions and rules-based order during peacetime," the statement said.
Shanahan referred to the perceived threats from China and Russia in outer space and cyberspace, emerging domains that carry enormous potential but also significant vulnerabilities. "We are not sitting back while our Chinese and Russian counterparts or competitors aim to disrupt and weaponize them," he said.
"The Japan-US alliance is now the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity of the entire Indo-Pacific region," Kono said. "Japan and the United States will conduct joint trainings and capability buildings and others with partner countries in order to jointly expand their presence in the region."
While hailing trilateral cooperation involving Japan, the United States and Australia in assisting Southeast Asian and Pacific island states in capacity building, the ministers welcomed the increased presence of Britain and France in the region.