The Government of Japan

A Remarkable Relationship at 50

Page 2

Upgrading Strategic Functions

The value of ASEAN-Japan cooperation is especially compelling in upgrading functions strategically important to national vitality. Infusing security, administrative, regulatory, and supervisory functions with global best practice is yielding tangible benefits for all 10 ASEAN members.

Buttressing Cybersecurity

An ASEAN-Japan initiative in Bangkok is buttressing cybersecurity in Southeast Asia and worldwide. The ASEAN-Japan Cybersecurity Capacity Building Center (AJCCBC), which operates under Thailand’s National Cyber Security Agency, cultivates cybersecurity human resources for ASEAN members. Funding the initiative initially was Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund 2.0. As of 2023, JICA has assumed the funding responsibility and has begun dispatching experts and engaging trainers. Japan’s NEC Corporation also participates in this initiative. It developed the cybersecurity curricula for regular training sessions at the AJCCBC and conducts some of the training there through its subsidiary NEC Corporation (Thailand).

“Cyberthreats are global,” cautions NEC Corporation (Thailand) president Kurihara Ichiro, “and cybersecurity therefore needs to be global, too. Companies are highly integrated in their operations, and an unlocked door anywhere in a company’s global organization exposes the entire organization to cyberattacks.”

The ASEAN members are increasingly important links in the global supply chains of a global cast of corporations. Ensuring cybersecurity is therefore crucial to maintaining an appealing investment climate in Southeast Asia.

Cybersecurity training session in progress

Cybersecurity training session in progress

“Indirect,” sighs Kurihara. “Everyone knows that cyberattacks can originate anywhere, but we also need to be alert to the reality that they can come through any nation. Hackers in nation X might target a system in nation Y, but they might route their attack through nation Z. We strive to impart to the cybersecurity trainees a global perspective on the challenges they face, as well as the skills needed to address those challenges. Our task is to ensure that cyberattacks don’t afflict systems in the ASEAN members and that they don’t pass through systems here en route to systems in other regions.”

The cybersecurity training at the AJCCBC is for personnel responsible for cybersecurity at government agencies and at private-sector companies. It includes sessions devoted to network forensics, to malware analysis, and to exercises in responding to simulated cyberattacks. Complementing the sessions for training cybersecurity experts are sessions for training trainers. Each session spans 2.5 days and accommodates 20-some trainees.

Learning by doing

In the network forensics sessions, the trainees learn about such matters as how hackers attack servers in protective perimeter networks and how they infiltrate clients’ computers. The trainees conduct log analyses and deep packet analyses and write signature code for detecting intrusions. In the malware analysis sessions, the trainees learn how to identify malware’s function and how to anticipate its behavior and likely effect. And in the cyberdefense exercises, the participants master the rudiments of countering diverse cyberthreats. “The training provides comprehensive grounding,” lauds a former trainee, “that prepares IT personnel managers to cope with incidents [of cyberattacks].”

Prospective trainees are of diverse backgrounds and of high skill levels, and they undergo preliminary testing to allow for optimizing their grouping in training sessions. The AJCCBC holds more than six training courses a year, including sessions based on needs determined through regional surveys, and provides housing for the trainees during their stays in Bangkok.

An interesting adjunct to the training courses is the annual Cyber SEA Game competition. That event is a two-day, capture-the-flag competition for under-30 cybersecurity professionals and amateurs from the ASEAN members. Four-person teams vie to outdo one another in dispatching simulated cyberthreats poised by the organizers. The winning team earns a trip to Japan to receive training and to observe the SECCON CTF International Finals. Sponsoring the finals are several Japanese corporations, including NEC.

Closing ceremony for training session

Closing ceremony for training session

Bolstering Maritime Safety

We tend to take for granted the availability of imported necessities, such as oil, and amenities, such as fine wine. Rarely, however, do we recognize the role in ensuring that availability of Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) operators. Those unappreciated individuals work 24–7 at monitoring ship traffic into and out of our harbors. Japan boasts leading-edge technology and personnel for ensuring reliable VTS. And Japan has shared its VTS strengths with ASEAN counterparts since 2017 through a first-of-its-kind training center in Malaysia.

Nordin Bin Mohamadin

Nordin Bin Mohamadin
Deputy Director General for Planning, Malaysia Marine Department

“What the trainees learn at our center serves them well throughout their careers,” emphasizes Nordin Bin Mohamadin, a deputy director general for planning at the Malaysia Marine Department. “That includes work beyond VTS. The trainees acquire expertise in traffic management, safety of navigation, and rules of the road that is essential for marine officers in managing ports and waterways.”

The center was born of a shared interest in what Bin Mohamadin characterizes as “ensuring safety from the port of departure to the port of arrival.” ASEAN and Japanese representatives decided on the Malaysian site after considering multiple options. The Malacca Strait, a jugular vein for global trade, unfolds between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. Siting the VTS training center in one of those three ASEAN members was therefore a natural choice. Malaysia’s government was especially proactive about the undertaking, and it provided an in-service training facility to house the center. The initiative receives funding through Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund 2.0 under the ASEAN-Japan Transport Partnership.

Securing prestigious qualifications

Training got underway at the center with a July-to-September course in 2017. Bin Mohamadin served as the inaugural director of the training center—formally the ASEAN Regional Training Center for VTS—until 2019. And he continues to oversee activity there for the Malaysia Marine Department. The first class comprised 20 trainees—2 from each of the 10 ASEAN members. Their curriculum covered such material as maritime English, traffic management, ship operation, equipment operation, and radio operation and included field trips to observe operations at VTS facilities. Seventeen of the trainees completed the course and earned prestigious qualifications as graduates of a training program certified by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouses Authorities (IALA).

VTS training session in progress

VTS training session in progress

In the training center’s third year, the organizers added a two-week course devoted to VTS center planning and upgrading. The continuing course and the new one each accommodated 20 participants, doubling the center’s trainee headcount. Covid-19 forced the suspension of on-site training in 2020 and 2021, but the training resumed in 2022. Handling the teaching duties at the center are five lecturers from Japan and one from the Malaysia Marine Department. An IALA representative visits at the end of the course to deliver a special lecture and to conduct trainee assessments.

“I have a lot of friends in the marine departments of the ASEAN members,” reports Bin Mohamadin. “And they express tremendous satisfaction with the training program.” He is emphatic, however, about the need for fortifying the program. “Along with training operators, we need to train VTS supervisors and instructors. We should consider accepting trainees from other Asia-Pacific nations beyond ASEAN.”

Real-time image of ship traffic in and around Malacca Strait

Real-time image of ship traffic in and around Malacca Strait (source: MarineTraffic)