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India flies – and lands – reusable autonomous spaceplane

PLUS Japanese PM grilled by ChatGPT; Singapore slams bank outage; WeChat adds paid tier; and more

Asia In Brief The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday successfully flew and landed an autonomous reusable spaceplane.

The agency hoisted the Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission (RLV LEX) to an altitude of 4.5km beneath a helicopter, then watched as it navigated a steep approach to land 4.6km downrange.

The vehicle is designed to launch atop a rocket, enter orbit, deploy payloads, then return to Earth and land on a runway.

Readers will not be surprised to learn that the craft looks a lot like the US's retired Space Shuttle, and Russia's Buran reusable vehicle.

RLV LEX is, however, purely experimental at this stage and is yet to reach orbit. A 2016 test saw the vehicle released at an altitude of 65km and successfully demonstrate hypersonic flight capabilities. The Sunday test did not achieve similar speeds but did manage a hot landing at 350km/h.

ISRO hopes the vehicle one day makes it possible to launch payloads to orbit for just $4,000/kg – well below the cost of competing launch services.

– Simon Sharwood

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Monetary Authority of Singapore slams local bank after outage

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issued a statement calling an outage at Singaporean bank DBS "unacceptable".

"DBS has fallen short of MAS's expectations to maintain high system availability and ensure its IT systems are recovered expeditiously," fumed an MAS announcement.

The Authority said it had directed DBS to conduct a thorough root cause investigation of the disruption and would take commensurate supervisory actions.

The day-long outage left many without access to online banking platforms and associated mobile wallets. Many DBS customers scrambled to find working ATMs in a world increasingly reluctant to accept cash.

The Reg contacted DBS to know more about the outage and future remediation but has not had any responses at the time of writing.

CEO Piyush Gupta reportedly said the bank was "disappointed" with the disruption.

"We acknowledge the gravity of the situation, appreciate our customers' understanding and deeply regret the inconvenience caused," said the CEO.

WeChat to start charging some users

China's giant social network WeChat has followed its US peers by introducing a paid tier of service.

The Tencent-owned entity last week announced a "Creator Sharing Plan" aimed at those who use the platform to earn a Yuan.

The service will allow subscribers to charge for their own content and hook them into Tencent's ad platform.

WeChat and Tencent justified the service on grounds that it will help users to make more money.

– Simon Sharwood

Five former Toshiba execs ordered to pay $2.2 million for alleged padding o9f company losses

Five former Toshiba execs were ordered to pay $2.2 million in damages for the company's accounting irregularities by the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday.

The irregularities were related to US infrastructure operations. Two former company presidents, and three former vice presidents, were told to pay up. The defendants allegedly padded profits between 2008 and 2014 by understating losses and using shady buy-sell transactions.

Meng Wanzhou to head Huawei from April to September

Huawei announced Meng Wanzhou will serve as rotating chairperson of Huawei Technologies Co from April 1 to September 30. The position is the top leadership position and heads the board of directors and its executive committee.

Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei and was famously held in Canada for three years awaiting extradition to the United States on fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud charges related to allegedly circumventing US sanctions against Iran.

Lawmakers use ChatGPT to formulate parliament questions in Japan

Japan last week allowed ChatGPT to participate in parliamentary debate, according to local media.

The large language model tool was used by lawmaker Kazuma Nakatani, member of the Constitutional Democratic Party, to formulate questions asked to prime minister Fumio Kishida such as "Please tell us whether the revised [COVID] bill sufficiently reflects the opinions of local governments and medical professionals, and what is the reaction of those involved to the amended bill."

The prime minister responded, with his words compared to ChatGPT's answer for the same question.

Kishida conceded AI had "great potential," but issues such as cost, handling of data, and whether it is appropriate for the government to develop AI itself still needed to be sorted.

Japan's first domestically produced quantum computer goes online

Japan began operation of its first domestically produced quantum computer on March 27, courtesy of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN).

In other news …

Our regional coverage from last week included news that China held its annual China Development Forum for the first time since COVID began, with big tech execs like Apple's Tim Cook, Qualcomm's Cristian Amon and Samsung's Lee Jae-yong in attendance.

Tim Cook also met with government officials in China, who urged him to improve the security and privacy features of the iGiant's products.

Also in China, Alibaba founder Jack Ma appeared in public and offered some opinions – the same behavior that Beijing previously frowned upon and which led to Ma all but disappearing from public debate in recent years.

Chinese fast fashion vendor SHEIN was rumored to be facing a potential ban in the US after a campaign called Shut Down SHEIN accused it of using a legal loophole to avoid import taxes.

Fellow Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba announced it will break itself into six parts.

Mediatek's Tsai Ming-kai said US semiconductor sanctions have prompted the Chinese government to fund mature chip technology in China and thus, as the country turns to buy locally, will negatively affected the industry in Taiwan.

FTX crypto-villain Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) was charged in the US with bribing Chinese officials $40 million to unfreeze trading accounts.

Chinese web giant Baidu was revealed as an investor in RISC-V upstart StarFive as it seeks to advance use of the open source processor design in the datacenter.

Police in India arrested a cyber gang selling fake KFC franchises online.

Chinese app TikTok was banned, along with all other recreation apps, from government devices in France.

CEO of a Norway-based ammunition manufacturer, Nammo, told the Financial Times it cannot expand its largest factory because a new TikTok datacenter is using all the spare electricity in the area.

A Chinese smuggler was caught trying to import 239 CPUs strapped around his abdomen and legs illegally through Macau.

A tribunal has upheld most of an Indian court's judgment against Google in an antitrust case. It will still have to shake out the sofa cushions to pay a $161 million fine, but will get some relief on directives – including those related to pre-installed apps.

The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the regional internet registry for 56 nations, revealed that it decided not to reveal findings that nominees for its recent executive council election had breached its code of conduct, in order to avoid disruptions to the vote.

South Korea passed its own tax break driven CHIPS Act.

Security firm Mandiant identified a North Korean cyber gang it calls APT43 and claims is responsible for a five-year rampage.

And our very own vultures met to discuss TikTok and the legitimacy of the claim that it poses a national security threat. ®

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