South Korea prepares multinational cyber exercise including US, Russia, and China

South Korea prepares multinational cyber exercise including US, Russia, and China
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup is having a meeting with the U.S. Congressional Study Group on Korea (CSGK) on July 8, 2022. The photo is not directly related to this article. Source: The Ministry of National Defense, South Korea

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Jul. 8, 2022 8:22PM KST

The South Korean military is planning to hold a virtual multinational cybersecurity training session this November. The participants are ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. In addition, there are eight other countries taking part: Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, United States, China, and Russia.

These eighteen countries are all members of the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) experts working group on cybersecurity. Established in 2016, the working group aims to enhance and institutionalize cooperation in the field of cybersecurity. South Korea is co-chair of the working group for a three-year term, which expires in 2024.

“When we were selected as a co-chair, our mission was to enhance practical threat response capabilities of member states,” said the official of the Ministry of National Defense’s cyber policy division on July 5. “There are gaps between member states in the tactical level. We are trying to bridge the differences. The cybersecurity training is part of the ongoing workplan to build cooperation.”

This is the first joint cybersecurity exercise between the ADMM-Plus working group member states. According to the South Korean military, which is leading the training, the exercise was already approved by the member states in 2021. However, it is unclear which countries will participate in the actual practice.

Countries are divided due to the Russia-Ukraine war. On April 7, the United Nations suspended Russia from the Human Rights Council in a vote. The suspension came after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 93 nations voted in favor of the resolution. However, Russia, China, and Vietnam were among 24 of the countries who voted against the suspension. Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia were among 58 nations that abstained.

Russia and China are also U.S. adversaries in the cybersecurity domain. Jen Easterly, director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), told the AP news on July 7 that “Russia, China, and North Korea remain very dynamic and complex cyber threats” in the upcoming midterm election. In addition, U.S. and UK security services have made an unprecedented joint warning on China the same day.

This could mean that the list of countries participating in the exercise could be varied until the very last minute. South Korea is planning to receive a participation approval from member states one or two months prior to the actual training. “We are preparing an exercise that includes all member states,” said the military official. “This group is not based on bilateral relationship. This group is based on multilateral relationship from the start.”

Kuksung Nam is a cybersecurity journalist for The Readable. She covers cybersecurity issues in South Korea, including the public and private sectors. Prior to joining The Readable, she worked as a political reporter for one of the top-five local newspapers in South Korea, The Kyeongin Ilbo, where she reported several exclusive stories regarding the misconduct of local government officials. She is currently focused on issues related to anti-fraud, as well as threats and crimes in cyberspace. She is a Korean native who is fluent in English and French, and she is interested in delivering the news to a global audience.