Japan Must Clear Remove Hurdles to Active CyberDefense to Strengthen Alliance with United States

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers questions during a plenary session of the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed the urgent need to improve Japan’s ability to mount an active cyberdefense during Diet deliberations last week, telling the Thursday session with party representatives in the House of Representatives that he would “speed up discussions to pass related bills as soon as possible.”

However, Kishida also said there were various issues that had to be considered from many points of view, “including connections with existing laws.”

The submission of related bills is therefore likely to be delayed to an extraordinary Diet session in autumn at the earliest.

Among the “connections with existing laws,” the highest hurdle is how to balance the bills’ aims with “the secrecy of any means of communication” guaranteed in the Constitution.

To detect and analyze the signs and origins of cyberattacks, telecommunications records such as emails used for the attacks have to be submitted to the government. A system will have to be designed to handle such matters as how to obtain telecommunications records, the range of the information covered, and the creation of a related framework within the government. A wide range of laws — such as the Telecommunications Business Law, the Law on Prohibition of Unauthorized Computer Access and the Panel Code — will also have to be revised.

These issues are being considered by government officials led by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shunichi Kuryu, the top bureaucrat involved.

Some in the government have voiced concern, pointing out that the Kishida Cabinet’s approval ratings have been low. They fear that the administration will not survive if opposition parties campaign against the moves, as they did regarding passages of the Law on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets and a package of security-related legislation.

However, current procedures for responding to cyberattacks only allow countermeasures to be implemented after damage is noticed. This could lead to a situation in which system shutdowns and other problems throw society into confusion. Japan could suffer irreversible harm and losses.

U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger was interviewed by The Yomiuri Shimbun when she visited Japan in December to discuss how to enhance countermeasures and other matters with Japan. Neuberger leads cyber policies for the White House.

During the interview, Neuberger said cyber security is one of the core elements of Japan-U.S. cooperation, and the United States wants to collaborate with Japan as Washington makes significant efforts in that regard.

She also said it was possible for the two governments to detect threats while protecting citizens’ privacy, and that strengthening cyber security will actually protect personal information.

When Kishida visits the United States in April, cyber-related issues will likely be on the agenda in his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.

A growing number of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers want the prime minister to demonstrate the political resolve to protect Japanese nationals and strengthen the bilateral alliance.