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Politics

Japan plans US-style council for China, Trump and uncertainty

Ruling party wants framework uniting cyber, economic and security policies

Japanese government workers participate in a cyberdefense exercise. Lawmakers in Tokyo feel the country needs a unified strategy to keep up technologically.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers proposed Wednesday that Japan create a body to coordinate its cybersecurity, economic and defense policies as the digital world proves a key battleground in the U.S.-China trade war.

The idea was inspired by the U.S. National Economic Council. The goal is to gather information from companies, foreign governments and intelligence agencies to form a unified strategy for Japan, working closely with the U.S. council.

The Japanese body would be led by the prime minister and include finance, foreign affairs, economic and public safety officials. A formal proposal will be submitted to the prime minister's office soon.

Information technology is turning into a flashpoint in the global struggle for technological supremacy. The activities of major companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Huawei Technologies now have profound economic, diplomatic and security implications.

But despite this shift, Japan has no framework for gathering information and crafting policy across these fields because each ministry focuses on issues that clearly fall within its jurisdiction.

There is concern that without a more lateral policy-making body, Japan will lag behind countries like China, whose influence is growing in the IT, economic and military realms.

Lawmakers may grant the proposed body power to analyze the threat of security-related technological leaks and to impose restrictions on transactions or prevent products from clearing customs. Another possibility is for the body to partner with government financial agencies to implement emergency measures when cyberattacks move stock markets.

Japan has highlighted Beijing's coordinated effort to achieve economic and technological supremacy through its Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and companies like Huawei. It has also expressed concern about China's intelligence law requiring corporations and citizens to cooperate on data collection.

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