Tomorrow Shinzo Abe and Barack Obama will meet. This is not just a meeting of heads of government. It will be the first time they have met, since Abe became Prime Minister of Japan two months ago. It will also be the beginning of Mr Abe’s attempt to fulfil his campaign promise to strengthen ties with the US, and Japan and the States’ mutual attempts to walk the Chinese tightrope. This meeting is the international equivalent of the popular girl and the spiteful nerd standing up to the playground bully. This week the US has acknowledged China’s sponsorship of cyber crime targeting US intellectual property and trade secrets. This was a coded call to China to step back its cyber warfare operations which have been of increasing concern to the US for the past few years. Japan too has been pushing back at China’s shoves to gain control over islands between their mainlands. These combined motivations mean that China is being left out of the bed, and the temperature is getting colder. The Spanish have even announced the US and China to be facing a “cyber Cold War”.
So with Japan and the US on common ground on sanctions for North Korea’s nuclear testing and bilateral defence between their two nations, what are the US and China left to play together with? There is only one answer: the global power cooperation card.
Further, the dynamic created by the cyber conflict is actually crucial to Japan, who have also just increased their military spending for the first time in over ten years. A momentous development both legally and politically, the accessibility of cyber weapons to individuals, non-state organisations and previously militarily insignificant states has the potential to turn the formation of international society on its head. In this field of strategy, the most developed and powerful countries become the most vulnerable. Technologically advanced financial institutions become the most commonly breached, with over $100,000,000 stolen via hacking in 2009 in the USA alone. Further, as international law has been traditionally developed by European customs and more recently by the sway of the United States since Woodrow Wilson, cyber war presents not only a new arena to which the law must be applicable, but a new power structure through which the law will be influenced. Not only do developed states become the most vulnerable, but the disparity between states in terms of military capability in this sector is far less than that created by some of a more traditional vein. This puts in a new position of susceptibility not only peace and security, but also global markets and their regulation by institutions such as the WTO.
For Japan, this means that this is an opportune moment to get into bed with the US, which is more and more citing international law, peace and security for its foreign policy decisions, as opposed to blatant domestic pressures. For the US, a bilateral defence arrangement and further careful strengthening of ties with Japan could help them avoid ending up like this :
As a side note, when looking for some devil’s advocate commentary on this on the Telegraph online, the lastest “breaking news” about the US was this: Eddie the arthritic sea otter finds therapy in basketball. It’s a video, so it might brighten your day.