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Japan, US to boost steps against cyberattacks in security talks

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and the United States are expected to agree in bilateral security talks next week to boost defenses against cyberattacks, a diplomatic source said Saturday, apparently with North Korea and China in mind.

    Expanded cooperation is expected to be stipulated in a joint statement to be issued after a so-called "two-plus-two" security meeting of their foreign and defense chiefs in Washington on Thursday, the source said.

    As cyberattacks pose a serious threat to national security, Japan and the United States aim to bolster measures to prevent any leak of classified information, including regarding state-of-the-art weapons, and to protect essential communication and transport infrastructure, the source said.

    Bolstering cybersecurity as well as ballistic missile defense in light of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs will be priority issues, the source said.

    Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have surged since North Korea twice tested intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. That led to the United States and North Korea trading threats to take military action, including Pyongyang threatening to fire four ballistic missiles near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam and U.S. President Donald Trump vowing that the North Korean leader "will truly regret it" if that happened.

    The Japanese and U.S. governments will agree during the two-plus-two meeting, the first since Trump took office in January, on the need to tackle cyberattacks in a comprehensive manner.

    Via the U.S.-Japan Cyber Defense Policy Working Group, an existing framework of dialogue between defense officials, the two governments are expected to agree to share more information, carry out joint drills and train experts to deal with cyberattacks, the source said.

    With North Korea said to have a 6,000-person cyberforce, the U.S. government issued a warning in June that North Korean hackers were targeting global financial institutions.

    China is also believed to be behind cyberattacks to obtain classified information about other countries' military strategies and crucial infrastructure.

    The two-plus-two talks were last held in April 2015 in Washington. In the talks next week, Japan will be represented by Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, and the United States by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

    Following the meeting, the Japanese government will begin work on its next midterm defense program, which will detail equipment acquisitions and costs over a five-year period. The new program will likely be drawn up in the latter half of 2018.

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