Seoul seeks peace pact; US strikes on Taliban surpass those on ISIS; Pentagon has 592 AI-related projects; Guatemala colonel arrested as MS-13 leader; and just a bit more…

South Korea is seeking a Korean peace treaty. Seoul has been talking with officials in Washington and Pyongyang about an agreement to end the 68-year state of war on the peninsula. New York Times: “Chung Eui-yong, the national security adviser to President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, said he had discussed the matter with John R. Bolton, his newly appointed American counterpart, in Washington last week, as they prepared for the planned talks between each of their countries’ presidents and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader.”

Trump’s caveats:

  1. “If I think that it’s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we’re not going to go,” he told reporters Wednesday evening in Florida during a Q&A with the press.
  2. “If the meeting, when I’m there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.” NYT lays out the implications of those two statements, here.

For your eyes only: A new 3D model of North Korea’s KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile, via Nathan Hunt for the Pyongyang-watchers at the website, 38North. Read a bit more about the missile, via the Center for Strategic and International Studies, here.

Nothing to see here. The U.S. is practicing evacuating civilians from South Korea, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, in an exercise that marks “the first time the evacuees are being brought all the way to the U.S.”

What’s going on: “[T]he military and a host of government agencies [will] coordinate the movement of about 100 civilians from the country to an air base in Japan, and from there to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport,” the Journal writes.

Words used to describe the drills: a “low-key simulation,” “long-planned,” and “an unusual military exercise.”

Admin note: “Under the best of circumstances, any mission to evacuate Americans would be a difficult undertaking,” the Journal reports, citing the recent warning from PACOM’s Adm. Harry Harris, who recently reminded U.S. lawmakers there are more than 200,000 U.S. civilians in South Korea. More (paywall alert), here.

From Defense One

Eric Schmidt Didn’t Know That Google Was Working the Pentagon’s AI Project // Patrick Tucker: The former chairman of Google was kept in the dark about the company’s outreach to the Defense Department — by design, he says.

Pompeo’s Secret Korea Trip May Not Save His Nomination, But It Could Save Trump’s Summit // Ploughshares’ Joe Cirincione: The president needs a “win” somewhere so badly that at the summit he may accept a nuclear freeze and a determined process as a major victory. That is a good thing.

What Austria Can Teach the US About Civil-Military Relations // Austrian soldier and journalist Franz-Stefan Gady: I was raised in a culture in which soldiering is seen as just another dangerous profession.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. OTD1775: The shot heard ’round the world.

This week in trend lines: For the first time in four years, the U.S. military dropped more bombs on Afghanistan than Iraq and Syria — 339 vs. 294 — according to the latest numbers from U.S. Air Forces Central Command’s “Airpower Summary” for March. Details here.
Contributing factor: “shifting assets, such as MQ-9 Reaper drones and A-10C Thunderbolt IIs ground attack aircraft to Afghanistan, following success in Iraq and Syria,” Stars and Stripes notes.

Cross-border strike in Syria: The Iraqi air force reportedly bombed ISIS targets in Syria with their U.S.-supplied F-16 jets this morning, Reuters reports (with no details).

Yer up. The U.S. Army has announced the newest round of upcoming deployments:

  • The 3rd Cavalry Regiment stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, is headed to Iraq this Spring;
  • The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, is headed to Europe this Summer;
  • And the 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, out of Kentucky’s Fort Campbell, is headed to Afghanistan soon.

Pursuing closure in West Africa. Nigerien special forces may have just captured “the militant leader who was being pursued when an ambush left four American soldiers dead in October,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday from the capital of Niamey. A bit more — but really not much more than the name of the pursued suspect, Doundou Chefou — here.

On the California-Mexico border, 400 National Guard troops will deploy soon — but they won’t be helping border patrol agents, the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, said Wednesday. What they can and can’t do, via the Washington Post, here.

South of the border, a colonel in Guatemala was recently arrested on suspicions of money laundering and — wait for it… being an MS-13 leader, regional journalist Sarah Kinosian flagged Wednesday from Guatemalan media.
But that’s not all: “That same colonel was the point person for a US special forces op as part of efforts to stop trafficking at the border last year,” Kinosian added — linking to this local September 2017 report.

From the region: Fidel Castro’s brother has officially named a successor to lead the Communist state. The appointment of President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel, the first non-Castro in 42 years, was rubber-stamped yesterday by the national legislature, the Miami Herald reports. “But Díaz-Canel, who officially took office on Thursday, faces daunting challenges and unfinished business inherited from retiring Cuban leader Raúl Castro, 86.” Read on, here.

Today, our hearts go out to Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, whose father was apparently killed in what Philadelphia investigators are calling a “suspicious death,” WPVI reported Wednesday.  

The Pentagon is opening an AI center of its own, since the technology is still a bit all over the map for the U.S. military, Defense News reported Wednesday after Michael Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, testified before the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee.  
Where things stand: “I’m working right now with folks on my staff to answer questions like ‘who should lead it, where should it be, what projects should it do,’” Griffin said, “and most importantly, ‘how does such a center fit into the overall AI strategy for the department and the nation?’”
For the record: The Pentagon “counts 592 projects as having some form of AI in them,” Defense News writes off Griffin’s testimony. However, “not all of those make sense to tie into an AI center. And Griffin wants to make sure smaller projects that are close to completion get done and out into prototyping, rather than tied up in the broader AI project.” A bit more, here.

Technology transfer. Back in February, police in Malaysia began using China’s AI-enabled facial recognition surveillance glasses, the Nikkei Asian Review reports this week.
The company: Shanghai-based surveillance and security startup, Yitu Technology.
The sales pitch: Yitu’s glasses “can identify a person from its database of 1.8 billion people within 3 seconds with an accuracy of 95%. It has been rolled out in 150 cities in 28 provinces in China, where it is used in public spaces such as airports, banks and hospitals.” More here.

And finally today: A robot has just conquered “one of the hardest human tasks,” the New York Times reported Wednesday off the recent work of researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
The task — which we will let you find out when you click — “requires perception, it requires you to plan a motion, it requires control between the robot and the environment, it requires transporting an object with two arms simultaneously,” said Dr. Quang-Cuong Pham, an assistant professor of engineering at the university and one of the paper’s authors.
FWIW: “The robot didn’t succeed right away,” the Times writes. Nevertheless, “The robot proceeded in three broad phases, spread out over 20 minutes 19 seconds,” culminating three years of work for the researchers. Video and more, here.

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