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US says it will help Japan defend against cyberattacks

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Countries express concern over 'growing level of sophistication' of cyber threats

The US government this week announced that it will expand its cybersecurity partnership with Japan, amid growing concerns over potential attacks against military bases and other infrastructure on the island nation. As Reuters reports, both countries are looking to strengthen their ties to counter threats from China and North Korea. A partnership established in 2013 will integrate the missile defense systems of the US and Japan, while giving Japan a greater security role in the region.

"a growing level of sophistication."

"We note a growing level of sophistication among malicious cyber actors, including non-state and state-sponsored actors, who are increasingly willing to demonstrate their intent and ability to do harm against information systems, critical infrastructure and services upon which our people, economies, governments, and defense forces rely," the US Department of Defense and Japan's Ministry of Defense said in a joint statement released Sunday. The statement also said that in the event of a cyberattack against Japan, the US would consult with and support its ally "via all available channels."

The move comes more than a month after the Obama administration unveiled a more targeted strategy that for the first time laid out the conditions under which the US would retaliate with cyberweapons. The policy also named the four countries considered to pose the greatest threat to cybersecurity — China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia — prompting Beijing to accuse the US of fueling an "internet arms race." China's Defense Ministry is similarly critical of Washington's partnership with Japan, saying it will only heighten tensions in the region.

Whereas the US has invested heavily in cyber defense systems in recent years, Japan is looking to bolster its forces ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. The country's cyber defense unit only includes about 90 people, a Defense Ministry official said Thursday, compared to more than 6,000 at the Pentagon.