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Japan’s SDF to get power to counter cyber-attacks when vital infrastructure at risk

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government is considering allowing the Self-Defense Forces to respond to cyber-attacks even when such attacks are not accompanied by conventional weapons, if the country that launched the attack is clearly identified and the attack causes large-scale damage to Japan’s electrical power, transportation and other crucial infrastructure.

The government plans to obtain Cabinet approval for the change in the middle of this month.

It plans to stipulate in the National Defense Program Guidelines to be revised in mid-December that the SDF possesses “the ability to counter cyber-attacks.” The government is spelling out the conditions necessary to counter a cyber-attack in an effort to gain the public’s understanding.

The government interprets an “organized and planned use of force based on a state’s will” as an armed attack against the nation.

Currently, the SDF can respond to a cyber-attack targeting the nation’s crucial infrastructure, such as a malicious program that triggers a glitch, if the cyber-attack is accompanied by an attack involving conventional weapons such as missiles. Therefore, whether the SDF can respond to cyber-attacks that are not accompanied by conventional weapons has become a point of debate.

Under the government’s plan, Japan would be able to invoke the right of self-defense and the SDF would be able to counterattack with minimum force if two conditions are met: a state clearly intends to attack Japan; and an attack causes a major power outage, dam failure or other damage that poses an imminent threat to the lives and freedom of citizens as well as their right to pursue happiness.

In the future, the government also plans to discuss whether the SDF can counter a cyber-attack even when the country that launched the attack is unclear. It is often difficult to identify the source of cyber-attacks, and police authority, rather than the right of self-defense, will likely be exercised to cope with the issue.

The government will soon present the conditions to the ruling parties’ working team on the National Defense Program Guidelines. Based on discussions within the ruling parties, the government plans to obtain Cabinet approval for the conditions in line with the compilation of the new guidelines.Speech

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