US seeks Southeast Asia's support to combat economic espionage

Kyodo News

Posted at Sep 19 2019 03:32 AM

The United States would like Southeast Asian countries to help it combat economic espionage, a senior US national security official said Wednesday.

"We rely on our partners in the region to enforce intellectual property," said Adam Hickey, deputy assistant attorney general at the US Justice Department, who is now visiting Singapore to discuss what the United States considers national security threats such as economic espionage and cyber threats.

Noting that the United States has seen a rising trend in recent years of "foreign intelligence services" trying to recruit American company insiders for facilitated computer network intrusion or to steal trade secrets, he said "it might be easier to recruit employees of American companies here than it might be to recruit them from the US directly."

"And then again a lot of it comes down to the enforcement regime of that particular country."

Hickey gave the example of Taiwan where a court indicted a Chinese state-owned company, a Taiwanese company and three individuals for a conspiracy to commit economic espionage last year.

"If I were an American businessman choosing whether to do business in Southeast Asia, I might give some thought whether my intellectual property will be protected there, is there a rule of law, can I be confident that authorities there will stand up for me if I am the victim of attack."

Asked if the United States is seeing a rising threat of foreign intelligence services targeting US companies operating in Southeast Asia, the official said, "I do think there is the risk that employees of American companies abroad could be co-opted, and that you got to think about what the security environment is."