Japan and eight Association of Southeast Asian Nations members agreed Thursday to bolster private sector cybersecurity collaboration, with 2023 marking 50 years of Japan-ASEAN friendship and cooperation.

The commitment was made at the International Conference on ASEAN-Japan Cybersecurity Community in Tokyo, which gathered various stakeholders, including nongovernmental organizations, amid growing concern over China's alleged involvement in various hacking activities.

Japanese Digital Minister Taro Kono (2nd from L, front row) and others pose for photos at the International Conference on ASEAN-Japan Cybersecurity Community in Tokyo on Oct. 5, 2023. (Kyodo)

The ASEAN countries involved are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, according to Japan's National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity, which organized the event. The regional bloc also includes Laos and Myanmar.

The two-day conference will run through Friday and includes expert panel discussions, as well as cyber security businesses introducing their initiatives. It will also offer opportunities for networking and matching up businesses for collaboration.

As governments around the world seek to improve national cyber defenses and reduce potential hacking vulnerabilities in their public and private sectors, Tokyo is seeking stronger ties with its partners to counter alleged cyberattacks sanctioned by Beijing and its growing influence.

Japan and ASEAN, whose partnership began in 1973, upgraded relations to a "comprehensive strategic partnership" in September. As part of the framework, Japan has committed to providing aid toward enhancing ASEAN members' cybersecurity.

At the event in Tokyo, Japanese Digital Minister Taro Kono stated his ambition for a free, fair and secure cyberspace domain by collaborating with ASEAN members to contribute to international peace and security.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a news conference later Thursday that he expects "cybersecurity cooperation to move forward" with ASEAN, stressing the importance of people-to-people relations. He described ASEAN as the "key to realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific."

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