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Japan’s AI Diplomacy

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Japan’s AI Diplomacy

In order to take a global leadership role in AI regulations and innovation, the Kishida administration must formulate its own legal framework at home. 

Japan’s AI Diplomacy
Credit: Depositphotos

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio plans to participate in a ministerial council meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) scheduled for May 2 to 3 in Paris. During the meeting, Kishida will reveal Japan’s plan to launch a “friends meeting on AI issues” – a new dialogue framework on governing artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

In recent years, the Japanese government has sought to establish a new global framework to discuss international regulations on the appropriate use of AI technology. Kishida’s participation in the ministerial meeting of the OECD can be regarded as the latest example of Japan’s AI diplomacy.

Back in 2016, as host of the G-7 Ise-Shima Summit, the Japanese government proposed basic rules for the research and development of AI at the meeting of G-7 ministers in charge of information and communication technology. Last year, with Japan once again as the G-7 host nation, the Kishida government launched an initiative called the “Hiroshima AI Process” at the G-7 Hiroshima Summit.

Five months later, in October 2023, the G-7 countries announced international guiding principles and a code of conduct for companies that develop advanced AI systems so that the misuse of AI and related privacy infringement can be prevented. 

The G-7 countries have been discussing effective international regulations on the use of generative AI tools, including ChatGPT, and Kishida as a chair of the G-7 posted on X (formerly Twitter) that Japan would “continue to work for international rulemaking of generative AI.” Based on the Hiroshima AI Process, the G-7 agreed on the first comprehensive international rules regarding generative AI in December 2023.

Domestically, the Japanese government’s AI Strategy Council has been in charge of the use and regulatory measures for AI, in cooperation with related ministries and agencies, especially the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. The AI Strategy Council has met eight times under the Cabinet Office since May 11, 2023. 

In December 2023, the Japanese government presented draft guidelines for AI-related businesses including regulations aligned with the G-7 international guiding principles. On February 14, 2024, the Japan AI Safety Institute was established to advance research on methods for evaluating AI safety in conjunction with domestic and external ministries and agencies.

More recently, U.S. President Joe Biden and Kishida touched on AI technology in their joint statement on April 10. In particular, the U.S.-Japan Joint Leaders’ Statement averred, “We are committed to strengthening our shared role as global leaders in the development and protection of next-generation critical and emerging technologies such as AI.” Moreover, Biden and Kishida stated that the two countries are committed to “advancing the Hiroshima AI Process and strengthening collaboration between the national AI Safety Institutes.” 

Japan-U.S. bilateral collaboration on AI technology has profound strategic implications given China’s investment in AI, as well as the world’s first comprehensive AI regulations adopted by the European Union in March 2024.

At the OECD ministerial meeting to be held in May 2024, Kishida will deliver a speech regarding generative AI with the following five points. First, he will confirm the basic concept and the significance of the AI technology with which the international community has been concerned. Second, he will propose establishing an international framework to regulate AI technology in collaboration with OECD countries. Third, Kishida will point out that AI technology is beneficial for humanity as a whole in resolving global issues, such as climate change and global health. Fourth, however, he will argue that the international community needs to cooperate on dealing with the negative aspects of AI, such as disinformation and human rights issues. Fifth, he will support the effectiveness of the so-called “originator profile” (OP) as one of the solutions to reduce the risk of AI technology.

At the same time, the Kishida administration has sought to develop Japan’s own legal regulations for AI businesses. The development and use of AI tools is regulated by existing laws, such as the Copyright Act, the Personal Information Protection Law, the Unfair Competition Prevention Act, the Antimonopoly Law, the Economic Security Promotion Act, and the Lawyers Act. In particular, the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association has demanded strict measures, and the introduction of OP as a “digital technology that clearly identifies the sender of information” has been deliberated as an effective measure against the AI-related problems.

Among the issues posed by AI, national security risks should be meticulously discussed and addressed within the framework of the legal regulations, both domestically and internationally. In Japan, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) considered national security aspects of AI technology in “The AI White Paper,” drafted and announced in April 2023. Specifically, the white paper noted the “risks of military use of AI, risks of cyberattacks, risks of data and technology leakage overseas, risks of disinformation threatening national security through information manipulation, risks of the influx of AI products with espionage capabilities into domestic markets, and so on.”

The LDP has carefully deliberated the legal regulations of AI technology while strenuously supported the development and application of AI technology. As the LDP president, Kishida himself joined a lecture on generative AI at the University of Tokyo in August 2023. Notably, the LDP itself is making use of the technology: its new poster with the catchphrase “Economic revitalization: Providing tangible results” was created by generative AI and developed by the party. Moreover, the LDP’s AI White Paper 2024 argues that the Japanese government should facilitate the innovation of AI technology as a new national AI strategy.

At this stage, however, there is no comprehensive legal regulations on AI technology in Japan. Unlike the United Kingdom and the European Union, Japan has allowed the ingestion of copyrighted works for commercial purposes – including the use of  illegally obtained or pirated content. Likewise, there is no penalty for punishing the spread of disinformation or fake news created by AI tools. For this reason, Japan has been dubbed a “machine learning paradise” for AI users. In the face of the situation, the LDP has requested the Japanese government to create a legal framework for the regulations of generative AI within fiscal year 2024.

Furthermore, it is critical for Japan and the international community to control and forbid the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), which might have the potential to cause an AI apocalypse. In order to take a global leadership role in AI regulations and innovations, as well as global regulations on LAWS, the Kishida administration is expected to formulate its own legal framework for AI regulations first. 

Even amid the strategic technological competition, Japan needs to cooperate not only with the United States and the European Union, but also with China for the regulation of generative AI, as well as the creation of a legally binding framework to regulate LAWS development in preparation for the possible occurrence of technological singularity in the not so distant future.