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Japan weighs deploying U.S. spy drones to MSDF base in Kyushu

The Japan Times

Tokyo and Washington are exploring the possibility of deploying U.S. military drones to a Maritime Self-Defense Force base in Kyushu – the first time American drones would be sent to an SDF base. Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Friday that the government was considering the temporary deployment of U.S. Air Force MQ-9 unmanned surveillance aircraft to the MSDF's Kanoya Air Base in Kagoshima Prefecture. Around seven MQ-9 drones would be deployed to the base, with about 100 U.S. personnel expected to operate and maintain the aircraft, according to media reports. The move to deploy the drones would be "part of efforts to improve the alliance's surveillance capabilities," Kishi told a news conference. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to bolster Japan's alliance with the U.S. during a virtual summit earlier this month with U.S. President Joe Biden, and the deployment of U.S. drones to an SDF base could be part of that.


Fear of angering Trump prompted Japan about-face on U.S. drone purchase

The Japan Times

Japan overturned in 2020 its decision to cancel acquisition of U.S.-made reconnaissance drones due to their massive costs out of consideration to then-U.S. President Donald Trump, who was promoting American weapons exports, according to sources close to the matter. The government of then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had told Washington in the spring of 2020 that it would not purchase the Global Hawk drones, but reversed the decision in the summer after Tokyo scrapped in June that year its planned deployment of U.S.-developed land-based Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense systems, they said. The about-face was prompted by concerns that cancellation of the Global Hawk acquisition would "anger Mr. Trump, who has insisted on exporting U.S.-made weapons," according to a source familiar with the matter. The policy change reflected "excessive consideration for Mr. Trump," the source said.


Japan and U.S. concerned over China's bid to 'undermine rules-based order'

The Japan Times

Japanese and U.S. foreign and defense chiefs on Friday shared their concerns about China's attempts to "undermine the rule-based order" and challenges they pose to the region and world, vowing to cooperate in deterring and responding to "destabilizing activities." In a joint statement issued after their virtual "two-plus-two" talks, the ministers highlighted the "importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," while opposing any unilateral actions threatening Japan's administration of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, controlled by Japan but claimed by China. Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, and their U.S. counterparts Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, also aired "serious and ongoing concerns" about human rights issues in China's Xinjiang autonomous region and Hong Kong. Hayashi said at the outset of the talks that Japan is "fully committed" to constantly enhancing the alliance toward realizing "a free and open Indo-Pacific," and noted that "it is more important than ever that Japan and the United States are united and exhibit leadership" in the face of a range of challenges. Blinken reaffirmed the alliance as a cornerstone of peace and security in the region, and said the two countries must not only strengthen the tools they have, but also develop "new ones" to address the evolving threats posed by countries seeking to undermine the international rules-based order, including China and North Korea.


Japan's defense budget for 2022 hits record for eighth year

The Japan Times

The Cabinet approved a defense budget Friday of ¥5.40 trillion ($47 billion) for fiscal 2022, setting a record high for the eighth consecutive year, to advance the development of new technologies in the face of China's growing military might and the North Korean nuclear threat. The draft budget, including outlays for hosting U.S. military bases, rose 1.1% from the current fiscal year ending in March as Japan ramps up its defense capabilities. The increase for a 10th year in a row is largely attributable to a sharp rise in research and development spending, for which the Defense Ministry has earmarked ¥291.1 billion, up ¥79.6 billion, or 37.6%, from a year earlier. The ministry will invest in advanced technologies, such as crewless planes that use artificial intelligence to fly in teams with next-generation fighter jets. "As the security environment surrounding Japan has been changing at an unprecedented speed and becoming increasingly severe, it is an urgent task for Japan to strengthen its necessary defense capabilities," Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at a news conference.


Algorithms of war: The military plan for artificial intelligence

#artificialintelligence

At the outbreak of World War I, the French army was mobilised in the fashion of Napoleonic times. On horseback and equipped with swords, the cuirassiers wore bright tricolour uniforms topped with feathers--the same get-up as when they swept through Europe a hundred years earlier. Vast fields were filled with trenches, barbed wire, poison gas and machine gun fire--plunging the ill-equipped soldiers into a violent hellscape of industrial-scale slaughter. Only three decades after the first World War I bayonet charge across no man's land, the US was able to incinerate entire cities with a single (nuclear) bomb blast. And since the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, our rulers' methods of war have been made yet more deadly and "efficient".


Japan to seek record defense budget topping ¥5.4 trillion

The Japan Times

The Defense Ministry will seek another record budget of over ¥5.4 trillion ($49 billion) for fiscal 2022, aiming to beef up its capabilities around remote southwestern islands to counter China's growing naval activities, government sources have said. The request would exceed the ministry's highest-ever ¥5.3 trillion initial budget for fiscal 2021, which started in April, and also reflects an increase in the cost to develop cutting-edge technologies, such as unmanned aircraft using artificial intelligence, the sources said Thursday. The defense budget could further expand, possibly topping 1% of Japan's gross domestic product, when it is finalized in December, as the request excludes outlays linked to hosting U.S. military bases. Japan's defense budget has long stayed at around 1% of its GDP, in light of the country's postwar pacifist Constitution and since the Cabinet decided in 1976 that the outlays should not exceed 1%. The last time the defense expenditure exceeded 1% was in fiscal 2010, when the GDP shrank sharply following the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.


With eye on China, Japan to revise five-year defense plan ahead of schedule

The Japan Times

Japan plans to revise its Medium Term Defense Program earlier than originally scheduled as it looks to boost spending to counter China's growing assertiveness in surrounding waters and prepare for contingencies in the Taiwan Strait, government sources said Friday. The program, which covers the five years through fiscal 2023, could be updated within the year, with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi having agreed earlier this month that some changes are necessary, the sources said. Discussions between officials including at the Defense Ministry and the National Security Secretariat are already underway, with budget issues set to be reviewed by the Finance Ministry. The revision would seek to fulfill Suga's promise to U.S. President Joe Biden during their meeting in Washington in April that Japan would bolster its defense capabilities to strengthen the alliance between their countries and maintain security in the Indo-Pacific region. In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the leaders singled out China for actions that are "inconsistent with the international rules-based order, including the use of economic and other forms of coercion."


U.S. Marines use Japanese language during drill to improve ties with SDF

The Japan Times

NAHA – The U.S. Marine Corps have held a drill in Japan with orders given in Japanese for the first time, according to the troops, in a move aimed at enhancing their partnership with the Self-Defense Forces. Although it remains unclear whether the Marines will interact in Japanese during actual operations, use of the language in Marine training suggests Washington is attempting to engage Japan's Ground-Self Defense Force in new operations involving remote islands, according to an SDF source. In a Marine exercise on April 29 at an airfield on Ie Island in Okinawa Prefecture, a Marine is confirmed to have directed other members in Japanese to move a rocket and fire it while pointing at a spot on the map. The exercise was part of the Marines' new Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, or EABO, in which troops practice securing a base for an attack on an island. "We would very much like to increase our partnership and interoperability," said Capt.


Japanese government set to shut China out of drone supply chain

The Japan Times

Japan may effectively shut off China from supplying drones to its government to protect sensitive information, according to six people in government and the ruling party familiar with the matter, as part of a broad effort to bolster national security. The primary concerns, those people said, centered on information technology, supply chains, cybersecurity and intellectual property -- worries that have been rising outside Japan as well. But Japan must balance such fears -- particularly Beijing's growing push to export sensitive technologies such as commercial drones and security cameras -- against deep economic dependence on China. It must also navigate increasingly choppy waters between China and Japan's closest ally, the United States, which is at odds with Beijing over many things, including technology. "China is a big market and it is important for Japan," one of the senior government officials said. "On the other hand, there are worries that advanced technologies and information could leak to China and could be diverted for military use."