United States and Australia vow joint response in cyber war


The United States and Australia on Thursday declared that a cyber attack in either country would trigger a mutual response as they sought to modernize 60 years of strong security ties. The Australian and US defense and foreign affairs chiefs added cyber war to their mutual security treaty during talks in San Francisco, where the two nations first signed the landmark accord in 1951 in the wake of World War II.
“In the event of a cyber attack that threatens the territorial integrity, political independence or security of either of our nations, Australia and the United States would consult together and determine appropriate options to address the threat,” a joint statement said. The two governments said that they made the change as they “recognize that cyberspace plays a growing role in ensuring national security.” Officials said it would mark the first time that the United States has addressed cyber warfare in a bilateral defense treaty, although the NATO alliance has also discussed cyber threats.
The United States and Australia have been alarmed about growing cyber attacks and fear a more sophisticated operation could cripple government agencies or companies. Many cyberattacks have appeared to originate in China. In the joint statement, the United States and Australia also said they would work together “to ensure the common benefits of cyberspace are accessible to all peoples and nations.” Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith, in a statement ahead of the talks, called cybersecurity “the key emerging transnational threat of the 21st century.” The Pacific allies have gradually been expanding fields of cooperation with Australian forces deployed in Afghanistan. The United States has been looking to expand its regional military presence beyond bases in Japan and South Korea. While the US alliances with Japan and South Korea have at times experienced hiccups due to local opposition to US troops, Australian leaders have sought to stress their unreserved support for the security relationship. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who had resumed his famously hectic travel schedule after a six-week rest following heart surgery, said that the 60-year alliance has persevered due to shared values.
“I think it’s fair to say that 60 years later this alliance is doing pretty darn well,” Rudd told a dinner on Wednesday that included US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “It is strong, it is robust and it has a future with firm foundations. It rests on common values, it rests on common interests but also a common resolve to defend those values of freedom and democracy as well,” Rudd said. Rudd at the dinner presented an honorary Order of Australia to George Shultz, a former secretary of state and secretary of the treasury, crediting his work with Canberra on initiatives in Asia. Shultz was the top US diplomat when New Zealand exited the then three-way alliance with the United States and Australia due to opposition to the presence of US nuclear material on its territory.