Israel and Japan signed a historic defense cooperation pact this week, hot on the heels of dramatic Israeli breakthroughs in Singapore and South Korea’s security industries.
Military and intelligence sources report exclusively to DEBKA Weekly that the bilateral agreement Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu signed in Tokyo on May 12 centered on collaboration in cyber security.
The two countries agreed to work together to counteract China’s preponderance in this field and the danger posed by the transfer of some of its know-how to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the North Korean army.
Netanyahu’s arrival in Japan came three weeks after US President Barack Obama’s April 23-24 visit.
He found Japanese leaders dissatisfied with Obama’s assurance that the dispute with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands was subject to Article 5 of the Japan-US Security Treaty.
This article declares that the two states would act against an attack on “territories under the administration of Japan.”
Obama had intended his assurance to remove ambiguity over the US commitment to support Japan in a conflict over the islands, and so gain leverage in Washington’s relationship with Tokyo and bring some stability to the East China Sea region.
Chinese cyber specialists proved able to control US drone, satellite
But the Japanese wanted action not words. They were also disappointed when the US president turned a deaf ear to Abe’s entreaties that the US and Japan pool their resources to counter the cyber threat from China and North Korea.
Tokyo is particularly worried by the expanding level of cyber collaboration among Beijing, Pyongyang, and Tehran. They see China and North Korea using Iran and its allies to turn the Gulf and Middle East into a laboratory for cyber warfare, where it will be open season for experimenting with methods of cyber aggression on military, financial and infrastructure targets.
Eventually, the Japanese fear its military and economy will fall victim to this technology.
Japan intelligence has confirmed that Chinese cyber warfare experts engineered the downing in 2011 of the top-secret US Lockheed Martin Sentinel RQ-170 drone at an Iranian air base.
For three years, the US has insisted that the drone dropped into Iranian hands because of a technical fault. This has not allayed the conviction of most international intelligence experts that, whoever brought the aircraft down has seized control – not only of its mechanism, but also of the US military satellites the CIA operated to direct them.
If the Chinese are capable of manipulating US drones and satellites, what is there to stop them from seizing Japanese drones and aircraft, or the US warplanes assigned to defending Japan?
Japan and Israel to pool resources on cyber security and warfare
In search of answers to this troubling question, Prime Minister Abe turned to Israel. He acted on the recommendation of Japan’s Jōhōhonbu (Defense Intelligence Headquarters), which reported that Israel is on top of the latest Chinese and North Korean advances in cyber warfare techniques, in view of its special interest in the technology they may have transferred to Iran.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources report that following the pact signed this week, Israeli experts will arrive in Japan to help set up centers for developing measures to protect its military, industrial and financial infrastructure from potential Chinese and North Korean cyber attack.
Officers from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces will also take part in courses on cyber war security in Israel.
For years, the Chinese have been “recruiting” encryption experts from academic and research institutions. They already employ an estimated 150,000 experts in the various fields of cybernetics at each of the country’s two military cyber units.
Still recovering from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is well aware of the vulnerabilities of its home front and economy to attacks of this kind.
Under their bilateral accords, Tokyo gains Israel’s support in devising methods of organizing and implementing firewalls for countering cyber threats to its national infrastructure, including DoS attacks that crash key servers.
Our military and intelligence sources report that defense collaboration will focus on two key areas:
1. The sharing of intelligence on military and nuclear interrelations between China, Iran, and North Korea.
2. The planning of cyber offensives alongside the building of an effective defense wall.