Japanese defense panel: Cyber attacks can be basis for military self defense

A Japanese defense ministry panel defined the country's "cyberspace" as part of its territory, on par with land, air, sea and space

A Japanese military panel on Friday released a new set of guidelines for dealing with cyber attacks against the nation, saying that in certain circumstances they could warrant a military response.

The panel, assembled under the Ministry of Defense to consider responses to such attacks, said that they could endanger core infrastructure of the military, as well as national infrastructure and private concerns. It defined cyberspace as "a 'territory' where various activities such as information gathering, attack, and defence occur, on the same way as land, sea, air and space."

While careful to state that online attacks should be considered on a case-by-case basis, the panel made clear Japan's right to respond to hostile attacks against its infrastructure. It called for a new cyber-military group that would exist separately from the country's existing ground, sea and air forces.

"It is difficult to define the relationship between cyber attacks and military attacks, and whether or not a specific situation is a military attack or not should be determined by considering the individual, specific circumstances, but if a cyber attack takes place as part of a military attack, this can be considered to fulfil the first condition for invoking the right of self-defense," a report issued by the panel read.

Japan's constitution officially forbids it from using force to settle international disputes, but the country operates a large and well-equipped military, as well as hosting large numbers of U.S. troops, planes and ships. While the recommendations released Friday are not official policy or legally binding, they are a rare public statement from the ministry on the issue of cyber defense.

"This is the first time the Defense Ministry has consolidated its stance on cyber attacks," said ministry spokesman Daisuke Kono.

The panel called for ¥21.2 billion (US$270 million) in funds for new cyber defense activities, the bulk of which would be devoted to monitoring Japan's networks and establishing a system for quickly responding to attacks.

It said that considerations for future meetings will include establishing a legal framework for dealing with online attacks, the establishment of a cyber defense group, and cooperation with industry and other countries.

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