Big news in gaming– a Google-affiliated company has apparently designed the strongest Go-playing computer yet. It’s already beaten a top European professional, but the program may need some tweaking before it can beat Korea’s Lee Sedol, probably the best living human Go-player. This AI goes beyond raw computing power, and seems to have accessed an ability that at least approximates what many professional players refer to as aesthetic judgements of game positions. Fascinating!
The deal, in which Japan made an apology and promised an $8.3 million payment, may help mend ties between the countries.
The Department of State recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). This replaces the Travel Warning for North Korea of October 1, to update information on the risk of arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens in North Korea.
Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention. Since January 2009, four U.S. citizens have been arrested for entering North Korea illegally, and two U.S. citizens who entered on valid DPRK visas were arrested inside North Korea on other charges. The Department of State has also received reports of DPRK authorities arbitrarily detaining U.S. citizens and not allowing them to depart the country.
The Government of North Korea has not only imposed heavy fines on, but has also detained, arrested, and imprisoned persons who violated DPRK laws, such as entering the country illegally or attempting to contact private DPRK citizens without government authorization. Travelers to North Korea must enter the DPRK with a valid passport and valid DPRK visa. Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and/or political activities (whether those activities took place inside or outside North Korea), unauthorized travel, or unauthorized interaction with the local population.
North Korean security personnel may regard as espionage unauthorized or unescorted travel inside North Korea and unauthorized attempts to speak directly to North Korean citizens. North Korean authorities may fine or arrest travelers for exchanging currency with an unauthorized vendor, for taking unauthorized photographs, or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners. It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country’s former leaders, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, or to the current leader, Kim Jong Un.
If DPRK authorities permit you to keep your cell phone upon entry into the country, please keep in mind that you have no right to privacy in North Korea and should assume your communications are monitored. It is a criminal act to bring printed or electronic media criticizing the DPRK government into the country. If you bring electronic media, including USB drives, CD-ROMs, DVDs, or laptops, into the country, you must assume that North Korean authorities will review the information on those devices. Please be sure that the information contained on those devices does not violate the laws or regulations of the DPRK, as penalties for knowingly or unknowingly violating North Korea’s laws are much harsher than U.S. penalties for similar offenses. Sentences for crimes can include years of detention in hard labor camps or death.
Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK, the U.S. government has no means to provide normal consular services to U.S. citizens in North Korea. The Embassy of Sweden, the U.S. Protecting Power in the DPRK capital of Pyongyang, provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested, or who have died while there. The U.S.-DPRK Interim Consular Agreement provides that North Korea will notify the Embassy of Sweden within four days of an arrest or detention of a U.S. citizen and will allow consular visits by the Swedish Embassy within two days after a request is made. However, the DPRK government routinely delays or denies consular access.
U.S. citizens who plan to travel to North Korea are strongly encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, about their trip by enrolling in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. If you enroll in this program, the State Department can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements via email messages (though you may not have access to email while in the DPRK). Enrollment also makes it easier for friends and family to get in touch with you in an emergency via the U.S. Embassy…
SEOUL, South Korea — In a significant step toward overcoming lingering historical animosities with its former colonial master, the South Korean government has unexpectedly announced that it will sign a treaty with Japan on Friday to increase the sharing of classified military data on what analysts cite as two major common concerns: North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and China’s growing military might.
The announcement set off a political firestorm in South Korea, where resentment of Japan’s early 20th-century colonization remains entrenched and any sign of Japan’s growing military role is met with deep suspicion. The opposition accused President Lee Myung-bak of ignoring popular anti-Japanese sentiments in pressing ahead with the treaty, the first military pact between the two nations since the end of colonization in 1945.
North Korea accused Mr. Lee’s government of “selling the nation out.”
The accord, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, provides a legal framework for South Korea and Japan to share and protect classified and other confidential data. Cho Byung-jae, the spokesman of the South Korean Foreign Ministry, said the South Korean ambassador to Tokyo, Shin Kak-soo, and Japan’s foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, plan to sign the treaty on Friday, after the Japanese cabinet’s approval.
The United States has been urging the two countries to strengthen military ties, so the three nations can deal more efficiently with threats from North Korea.
It was well known that South Korea and Japan, which enjoy thriving economic ties and cultural exchanges, were negotiating the deal, but the opposition and other government critics here were caught off guard by Thursday’s announcement because earlier indications had been that historical hostilities would again delay a pact. The two remain locked in disputes over the ownership of a set of islets and over Tokyo’s rejection of talks on compensating “comfort women,” Koreans the Japanese military forced into sexual slavery during World War II.
Military cooperation between the two has lagged, although a cautious military rapprochement sped up after North Korea’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean island in 2010. China’s naval expansion has also prompted politicians in the two countries to call for closer military ties. In the past week, the United States, Japan and South Korea conducted a joint naval exercise in the seas south and west of the Korean Peninsula.
Officials here said the need for the allies to share data on bellicose and enigmatic North Korea has grown with the increased uncertainty after the death of its longtime ruler, Kim Jong-il, in December.
Under the rule of his son Kim Jong-un, North Korea has vowed to bolster its production of nuclear weapons. It launched a rocket in April, and although it failed to put a satellite into orbit, Washington condemned the launching as a test of intercontinental ballistic missile technology.
The political opposition and several civic groups in South Korea warned that the new military cooperation deal would only intensify regional tensions and encourage Japan’s “militaristic ambition.” “When the Lee Myung-bak government started out, it was pro-American to the bone, and as it nears the end of its term, it is proving pro-Japanese to the bone,” said Park Yong-jin, spokesman of the main opposition Democratic United Party.
Mindful of such a political offensive, Hwang Woo-yea, the head of the governing New Frontier Party, visited the disputed islets in the sea between South Korea and Japan on Thursday in a symbolic gesture reconfirming South Korea’s territorial claim.
“Every grain of sand here, every rock here, belongs to South Korea,” he told South Korean police officers guarding the islets.