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Japan mulling the idea of proposing export control framework for advanced technology

  • September 27, 2020
  • , Nikkei , p. 1
  • JMH Translation

The Japanese government is mulling the idea of proposing to countries such as the U.S. and Germany the establishment of a new export control framework with the aim of preventing artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and other forms of advanced technology from being used for military purposes. The move is aimed at facilitating close cooperation [among countries that will participate in the new framework] to swiftly restrict the exports of such technology with a particular eye on China, which is beefing up its military might by making use of private expertise.


The U.S. is currently placing export controls on China’s Huawei on its own and also plans to introduce restrictions concerning advanced technology. But Washington’s unilateral expansion of export controls is not helping to align the international community.


Member countries of the “multilateral export control regime (MECR)” meet on a regular basis to decide whether to impose export controls. There are various kinds of export control regimes with different purposes. For example, the “Wassenaar Arrangement,” launched by like-minded nations in 1996 after the end of the Cold War, is designed to discuss products subject to export controls in order to prevent general-purpose machines and parts from being used in military hardware.


As these regimes are joined by several dozen nations, decision-making takes time. Japan’s idea is to create a framework that only countries that possess advanced technology can join. The aim is to swiftly hold discussions and decide which items should be restricted whenever issues arise.


Japan is considering proposing the idea to countries such as the U.S., Germany, Britain and the Netherlands, looking to realize it by as early as 2021. Advanced technology subject to export controls will mainly fall into four areas: AI and machine learning; quantum computing; biotechnology; and hypersonic speed. Their use for military purposes might result in harnessing the capabilities of weapons and improving the accuracy of decryption. If either of those eventualities came to pass, it might pose a security threat on a global scale. 



Technology that Japan and the U.S. believe is at risk of being leaked to China



(1)   AI and machine learning

  • Could be used in unmanned weapons
  • Fake images could be circulated to cause confusion in society

(2)   Quantum computing

  • Government and business systems could be hacked for decryption; 
  • Could be used in radars to detect stealth aircraft

(3)   Biotechnology

  • Could be used to develop hazardous bioweapons
  • Could be used to manipulate brain signals externally

(4)   Supersonic speed

  • Could be used to develop missiles that cannot be shot down
  • Could be used to develop high-speed reconnaissance aircraft


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