FirstFT: US to link up with Japan and Taiwan in drone supply deal



We start today with a scoop that the US, Taiwan and Japan are to share real-time data from naval reconnaissance drones as part of a push by Washington to strengthen military co-operation with its allies in Asia.

US defence contractor General Atomics is due to deliver four MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones to Taipei beginning in 2025, according to four people familiar with the project. The MQ-9 is the maritime variant of the Reaper drone used by the US Air Force in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. It can find, track and target enemy ships and radars.

Washington is planning to allow the technology to be integrated into the same system that US forces and Japan’s military use in the region, the people familiar with the project said.

That would allow the US and its allies to observe the same information gathered simultaneously by the unmanned aerial vehicles — a set-up referred to as a common operational picture.

Including Taiwan in interoperability structures between the US military and its allies is extremely sensitive. Washington ended its mutual defence treaty with Taipei when it switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

China’s foreign ministry criticised the move earlier today. “We firmly oppose military contact between Taiwan and countries that have established diplomatic ties with China,” a spokesman said.

The Pentagon and Taiwan’s presidential office declined to comment. Japan’s defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • Economic data: New applications for unemployment aid are released for the week ending June 3 and Mexico updates its inflation index.

  • SEC: Gary Gensler will deliver a keynote speech at the Piper Sandler Global Exchange & FinTech Conference in New York. The Securities and Exchange Commission has escalated its assault on crypto markets this week.

Five more top stories

1. Rishi Sunak will position Britain as a leader in AI when he meets Joe Biden at the White House later today. The prime minister will tell the US president that the UK can establish the “guardrails” to regulate the rapidly evolving technology. He will also announce plans for a global conference in November to co-ordinate the international response to AI. Read more on the meeting later today.

2. Investors’ support for environmental and social activism sank at this year’s annual meetings of US companies. Petitions asking companies for more action on climate change and human rights both lost support compared with last year’s votes, according to the Sustainable Investments Institute, a non-profit data provider. Read more on this year’s meetings.

3. BlackRock is buying one of Europe’s biggest providers of loans to start-ups and technology companies, as the firm continues to expand its $45bn private credit business. BlackRock senior executive Stephan Caron explained the rationale for buying London-based Kreos Capital in an interview with the Financial Times.

4. US stocks fell yesterday while Treasuries slid after an unexpected interest rate increase by the Bank of Canada. Persistent inflation led to the surprise decision, stoking expectations that the Federal Reserve may not yet be done raising borrowing costs. Read the full story.

5. Lionel Messi, the captain of Argentina’s World Cup winning team, is to join the Major League Soccer club Inter Miami. After two decades at FC Barcelona and a stint at Paris Saint-Germain, the signing gives the US league a monumental boost.

The Big Read

A doctor rests her hand on a newborn’s back in a hospital crib
© Linda Scuizzato/FT

Italy, a society that still views itself as traditional and family-orientated, is facing what some dub a “demographic winter”. Annual new births are falling relentlessly as women delay motherhood, or opt out altogether, in a nation lagging far behind its European peers in support for working mothers. But many are sceptical of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s attempts to entice women into having children.

We’re also reading . . . 

Chart of the day

Animation showing wildfire smoke across the eastern US

Everything from schools to airports and Broadway shows were disrupted yesterday as New York was covered in thick smoke. Residents were forced to wear face masks in an unsettling reminder of the Covid-19 pandemic as unhealthy air from Canadian forest fires drifted south, enveloping the eastern US. Air quality in New York City was the worst of any major urban area in the world, according to the IQAir World Air Quality index. Read more.

Take a break from the news

Ahead of the release of Black Mirror’s sixth season, the Financial Times interviews Charlie Brooker, the creator of the darkly satirical Netflix series. Brooker discusses avoiding Elon Musk and NFTs, and asking ChatGPT to write an episode summary.

Additional contributions by Tee Zhuo and Benjamin Wilhelm

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