US, South Korea Sign Pact to Counter Disinformation

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STATE DEPARTMENT — The United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate with South Korea in the fight against false propaganda and disinformation.

It is the first such agreement that Washington signs with its Asian ally, and it comes as U.S. officials and lawmakers accuse the People’s Republic of China of conducting “deceptive online campaigns” targeting the United States and other countries. Chinese officials have rejected the accusation.

Liz Allen, the U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, is traveling to Asia this week. Allen met with her South Korean counterpart Friday and sealed the agreement with South Korea on countering disinformation.

The State Department said Allen, while in Tokyo, will hold bilateral discussions with Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials that include a focus on countering malign foreign influence.

South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday that both countries shared concerns over “dissemination of false information and overseas information manipulation” that pose a transnational threat, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed to strengthen the cooperation in these areas.

“The signing of this MOU is an unmistakable expression of our shared recognition that foreign information manipulation is a national security threat,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA on Friday.

U.S. President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have agreed to find ways to coordinate joint efforts to counter disinformation after the three leaders held talks during the first trilateral summit at Camp David in August.

“President Yoon mentioned the threat from false propaganda and disinformation in his address to the Joint Session of U.S. Congress in April. In this regard, we are now discussing the possible follow-up measures with the U.S.,” an official from the South Korean Embassy told Voice of America on Thursday.

In a statement on Thursday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul condemned the “increasingly deceptive online campaigns targeting the U.S. and other countries” by the Chinese Communist Party.

“The CCP has made clear it will use every tactic to spread its malign intent,” the Republican congressman said.

The South Korean government has identified 38 suspected fake Korean-language news websites that it believes are operated by Chinese companies. For example, in November, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said two Chinese public relations companies, Haimai and Haixun, were allegedly creating such websites, according to Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency.

In a report issued in September, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center accused the Chinese government of using a combination of tactics in a bid to create a world in which Beijing, either explicitly or implicitly, controls the flow of critical information. The U.S. has warned that China is pouring billions of dollars into efforts to reshape the global information environment and, eventually, bend the will of multiple nations to Beijing’s advantage.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has pushed back, calling the Global Engagement Center the command center of “perception warfare.”

James Rubin, special envoy for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, has said that Washington is working with allies to detect and counter misinformation and disinformation around the world.

In May, the U.S. signed a Memorandum of Understanding with North Macedonia, and in September, another with Bulgaria, both aimed at enhancing cooperation in countering foreign information manipulation.

Source: VOA