Canberra seals US pact on cyber wars

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  1. ejazr

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    Canberra seals US pact on cyber wars

    SAN FRANCISCO: Australia and the US have marked the 60th anniversary of their mutual defence pact by adding co-operation on cyber warfare, the first formal deal between two powers outside NATO to combat the emerging security threat.

    Finalised between the nations' defence and foreign ministers in talks held at the site where the original ANZUS treaty was signed in 1951, the agreement commits both to coming to each other's aid in the event of a cyber attack.

    The expanded commitment is expected to preface a range of new measures, including deals to allow US military vessels, aircraft and personnel to be positioned at Australian bases and ports.

    First mooted at last November's ministerial talks in Melbourne, the deal would give the US greater access to Australian training facilities and a stronger bulwark in a region being reshaped by the rise of China.

    But a final announcement was not expected to emerge from today's meeting at the Presidio.

    The Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, said more work was needed. ''We are looking at … notions such as more frequent and regular exercises; more exercises on Australian soil; the pre-positioning of stores and the like; greater co-operation on disaster relief and humanitarian assistance; and what I colloquially describe as more ships in and out, more planes in and out and potentially more troops in and out on exercises and the like.''

    The talks were also focusing on increased co-operation on missile defence, in particular shipbound defence systems that could better protect against missile strikes. A State Department official said China, North Korea and Burma were also on the agenda.

    He praised the Australia-US partnership, which had become ''even tighter'' post-9/11.

    Mr Smith said a ''substantial cyber attack'' on either country would trigger the treaty in a response similar to that following the 2001 terror attacks on the US.

    But he added: ''What we want to do is make sure that cyber space can be used peacefully by nations, can be used successfully by industry, but we're talking here at a level that is much higher than, for example, people using the internet, using cyber space to steal commercial or state secrets. We're talking about a significant attack upon the communications fabric of a nation.''

    The recently appointed US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, referred to cyber space as ''the battlefield of the future''.

    Speaking ahead of the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN), Mr Panetta said: ''We are all going to have to work very hard not only to defend against cyber attacks but to be aggressive with regards to cyber attacks as well. The best way to accomplish that is … working with our partners.''

    The annual AUSMIN meeting was also being attended by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as well as the Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, Australia's ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley, and America's man in Canberra, Jeff Bleich.

    The gathering took the opportunity to present an honorary Order of Australia to George Shultz, the former US Secretary of State who presided over the first AUSMIN meeting 25 years ago.
     
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