Report on Japan visit by Campaign to Stop Killer Robots coordinator Mary Wareham 23-25 March 2016

Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR Japan) hosted a brief visit to Tokyo by campaign coordinator Ms. Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch on 24-25 March 2016. Both organizations are co-founders of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and collaborated 20 years ago through the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate, to help establish the Mine Ban Treaty. The Tokyo events followed outreach by AAR Japan in November 2013 with Mr. Peter Asaro from campaign co-founder the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC). Here is the report from Ms. Mary Wareham.
Talk by Campaign to Stop Killer Robots coordinator Mary Wareham

Some 80 people attended the AAR Japan talk by Wareham on Friday, 25 March, including representatives from non-governmental organizations Human Rights Now, Human Rights Watch Tokyo, Peace Boat, Japan Federation of Bar Associations, Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines, and Pugwash Japan. Her presentation was followed by remarks by Shoichi Nagayoshi, senior deputy director of the conventional arms division of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking in his personal capacity. They concluded by taking many questions.

Nagayoshi focused on how lethal autonomous weapons systems or "LAWS" are being addressed at the UN via the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), and noted that there were no common positions agreed on LAWS at the UN, while introducing both affirmative and negative views on the major matters under discussion. On process, he found a need to go deeper in the discussions to clarify the definition of LAWS but acknowledged that requires dedicating more time to substantive deliberations.

Nagayoshi stated that LAWS do not exist yet, and accordingly, there are cases where those who refer to LAWS talk past each other. He stated that certain countries talk about weapons with human on the loop such as armed drones, while others refer to fully autonomous weapons. He pointed out that there is no "common ground or understanding" of what we are discussing, and that such elements as meaningful human control, autonomy and critical functions are useful in deliberating the definition of LAWS.

Nagayoshi was invited to elaborate on Japan's policy and he repeated the government's position that Japan has "no plan to develop fully autonomous weapons systems, which may be capable of committing murder." As an advanced country in robotics and artificial intelligence it is important to retain those technologies for non-military purposes and not prohibit its peaceful uses.
Shoichi Nagayoshi, senior deputy director of the conventional arms division of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

The day before the event, Wareham and AAR Japan representatives met with Liberal Democratic Party Member of Parliament Taku Otsuka, who is responsible for defense issues. Otsuka touched on the role of unmanned fighter aircraft and role of robots in aiding humans at Fukushima as well as the country's "unique, purely defensive policy" that prevents it from using offensive weapons. He said robots fit with Japan's defense choices, but fully autonomous weapons are not suitable for under its policy. He expressed concern at military research and development in China and recommended the campaign consider the relevance of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty on anti-satellite weapons.
Meeting at the Diet (parliament) with Liberal Democratic Party Member of Parliament Taku Otsuka

Upon her arrival in Tokyo Wareham also briefed a small meeting of Human Rights Watch Tokyo committee members. She did an interview with TV Asahi.

During the visit, Wareham took questions on: Singularity and the way that artificial intelligence is evolving exponentially to interconnect us in a way that some say will fundamentally challenge our notions of humanity; What is our definition of a fully autonomous weapon? What about automated weapons? If LAWS are used for rescue purposes and not killing is that OK? Who wants to develop these weapons? What is the role of manufacturers? What companies are developing these weapons? Does the campaign seek to ban development of artificial intelligence? Can stigmatizing the weapons help regulate or control such weapons? What is the policy of Japan, China, and South Korea? If China and South Korea are developing these weapons systems then Japan cannot regard the issue as having nothing to do with us. Japan is developing robots to use in health care, education, elderly care. Roboethics is an important theme to consider in these civilian uses as well as military and the discussion on killer robots. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Is it not a contradiction for it to be a leading proponent of the call to ban killer robots? Can killer robots be used in the name of self-protection? Can the self-defense question be used as a justification or excuse for killer robots? There are still IHL rules that guide our self-defense. Why are the discussions at the Convention on Conventional Weapons “not deep enough” if they have been talking since 2013? Who from Japan signed the call to ban autonomous weapons issued by 3,000 artificial intelligence experts and roboticists in July 2015?
We are grateful to AAR Japan for their professional organization and kind hospitality, especially Natsuki Matsumoto.

For more information, see:
AAR Japan's report (Japanese)
Event flyer (Japanese)
Event flyer (English)
TV Asahi clip (Japanese)