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Security at the frontier: UK–Japan perspectives on cyberspace, outer space, the Arctic and electronic warfare - 30 Mar 2021


Increasing global connectivity has brought with it a new range of security threats that were unfathomable just decades ago. Global reliance on the internet and on virtual networks has revealed a range of new cyber vulnerabilities and threats, including to critical infrastructure and the Internet of Things (IoT). Cyber technology has brought with it a new security focus on outer space, which has become key to the functioning of national and international infrastructure on the ground. Furthermore, technologies using the electromagnetic spectrum, which are increasingly integral to military operations, create new challenges and adversarial threats including the prospect of electronic warfare. These challenges have expanded geographically too, as countries explore new physical frontiers, like the Arctic, as regions of strategic interest. This conference report, comprising of four expert essays and a meeting summary, draws upon Chatham House’s December 2020 conference ‘Security at the Frontier’,1 to examine the latest developments in cyberspace, outer space, the Arctic and electronic warfare, and considers how best the UK and Japan might respond to these challenges.


The internet has come a long way since Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn developed the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and made the pivotal decision not to put an upper limit on the number of networks that could be connected. Design choices matter; they define what is and isn’t possible, and, in this instance, set the rules for the hardware, products and services that connect to the modern internet. They also have the potential to give economic and political advantage to any party that can alter them. This potential has seen the technology and standards that underpin the consumer-focused internet become a new focus for geopolitical rivalry. Japan and the UK – both G7, G20 and OECD members – have each struggled to cope with the capricious, sometimes aggressive behaviour of their strongest ally, the US, while not being able or willing to take a hard line with respect to China on issues like 5G. As China continues to rise as a technological power, and as the risk grows that the internet’s architecture fragments, it will be vital for like-minded allies such as the UK and Japan to continue to advocate the benefits to trade and social well-being of a single, open interoperable internet.

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