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Japan mulls equipping Self-Defense Forces to conduct cyberattacks

TOKYO -- The government is considering a plan to have the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) possess cyberattack capabilities, as the forces are relying increasingly on information communications.

The government will incorporate the plan in its new National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) to be compiled by year's end.

The executive branch presented a document titled, "Cross domain operation," which details the policy plan at a meeting of the working group comprised of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito on Nov. 30.

Noting that the SDF and the military forces of other countries are increasingly dependent on information communication networks, the document emphasizes that cyberspace is vital in contemporary warfare. Based on this recognition, the government is poised to upgrade the SDF's defense capabilities in outer space and electromagnetically.

The executive branch explained that the government will upgrade the capabilities of the SDF's Cyber Defense Group and other relevant units, promote collaboration with relevant organizations and other countries, and move ahead with technological research and development, such as the use of artificial intelligence.

The working group pointed out that Japan would exercise the right to self-defense if the country came under a cyberattack or similar infiltration from another country and use police authority to respond otherwise.

The ruling bloc asked the executive branch to present specific examples of cases in which Japan could exercise the right to self-defense, including those in which it is difficult to judge whether an attack can be considered use of force or a criminal act. Moreover, the team requested that the administrative branch clarify how to maintain consistency between such judgments and three new conditions for using force provided for by security legislation.

Japan's use of force is strictly restricted by war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

So far, the government has only explained that Japan can exercise its right to conduct a counterattack in cyberspace if the three new conditions are met. Those conditions are: The original attack threatens Japan's survival and poses a clear danger of fundamentally overturning people's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; there is no other appropriate means available to repel the attack; and use of force is limited to the minimum extent necessary.

However, since there are various forms of cyberattacks, it is difficult to judge whether such an attack on Japan or other countries closely related to Japan would pose a clear danger of fundamentally overturning people's lives, freedom and their right to pursue happiness -- the first of the three conditions. The issue will therefore be a point of contention in discussions on the new NDPG.

(Japanese original by Noriaki Kinoshita, Political News Department)

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