Secretary of State John Kerry will talk cybersecurity on Monday in the heart of East Asia, a region that is increasingly hostile to U.S. interests in cyberspace. 

The speech is part of a weekend swing through Beijing and Seoul, where Kerry will give his remarks. While maritime disputes in the South China Sea and trade discussions will likely dominate much of the agenda, cybersecurity will come up as well. 

{mosads}China and North Korea have become major cyber irritants in the region. 

The U.S. regularly accuses Beijing of orchestrating a massive digital campaign to pilfer American intellectual property. The White House also blamed Pyongyang for ordering last year’s high-profile cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which heavily damaged the company’s computer network. 

Kerry’s visit comes on the heels of a cybersecurity pact between the U.S. and Japan, which seemed aimed at stemming the rising tide of China’s economic espionage. 

“Japan in the end is going to be our greatest ally in this global cyber conflict,” said Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer at security firm Trend Micro.

The U.S. has also strengthened its military ties with South Korea, which has been peppered by a growing barrage of North Korean digital assaults targeting media outlets, financial firms and even a nuclear reactor.

Last December, Japan and South Korea made an unprecedented pledge to share military intelligence about North Korean weapons programs with the U.S.

Kerry will have to walk a fine line with Chinese officials. While China is a cyber adversary in many ways, it’s also a critical economic partner and ally. Kerry’s presence is a precursor to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s Washington visit later this year.

“We are convinced that it is in China’s interest to help put an end to this practice,” Kerry said in a November speech in Washington. “Chinese markets will be more attractive to international industries if China shows that it’s serious about addressing global cyber concerns.”

South Korea and Japan face a similar balancing act with China.

Although the two countries have sparred with Beijing over territorial disputes, the countries all agreed to come together for counterterrorism talks Friday. Bolstering cybersecurity cooperation was prominently featured in the daylong summit.  

Tags China cybersecurity John Kerry North Korea

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