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Five Eyes intel group ties up with Japan, Germany, France to counter China in cyberspace


TOKYO -- The "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance of five English-speaking nations has joined forces with Japan, Germany and France to introduce an information-sharing framework on cyberattacks from countries such as China, people linked to the Japanese government have said.

The mechanism is aimed at countering malicious moves in cyberspace, and the Five Eyes countries -- the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand -- have asked the other three nations to step up their countermeasures, they said.

Tokyo responded to this request by effectively deciding to no longer procure Chinese telecommunications products for government use, and intends to implement tough safety measures for providers of cloud data storage and exchange services for the public sector.

The Five Eyes has its roots in a U.S.-Britain signals intelligence agreement dating back to World War II. They are said to be sharing information collected from global telecom networks. According to some Australian press reports in December last year, the five nations agreed on a joint strategy against China in a secret meeting in July 2018.

According to those people knowledgeable about the matter, the latest intelligence-sharing framework began in early 2018. Officials from eight countries -- dubbed by some as "Five Eyes plus 3" -- held multiple plenary meetings and bilateral sessions to share secret information about China's cyber activities.

The U.S. pointed out the possibility of Chinese telecom products having "backdoors" for easier intrusions online, and requested Japan, Germany and France to take appropriate countermeasures. The eight countries have agreed to cooperate as required, those sources said.

Chinese manufacturers are front-runners in the technical development of ultrafast 5G mobile telecommunication systems, and the U.S. is increasingly worried about cyberattacks and information theft by China. In August last year, Washington announced its policy of excluding telecom products made by major Chinese firms such as Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. from government procurement. Australia and New Zealand effectively followed suit later in the year.

Japan also made an announcement in December saying similar measures will be taken from April this year. Tokyo has also requested companies in 14 sectors offering key infrastructure services such as telecommunications, financial services and railways, to beef up cybersecurity.

The Japanese government plans to create safety standards for cloud services that are to be introduced at government ministries and agencies by incorporating U.S. government requirements, which are stricter than international norms.

Specifically, the new standards will include detailed specifications for high-capacity server computers and requirements for responses to cyberattacks among companies offering such products and services. The government will periodically examine whether those providers are meeting set standards, and additionally require privately owned key infrastructure providers to adopt similar measures themselves.

(Japanese original by Kenji Wada, Business News Department, and Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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