This article was published on Albawaba – November 18th, 2019
China is set to sell autonomous robot-military technology capable of lethal targeted strikes to Middle Eastern regimes, according to United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Concerns over the use of these weapons are being raised by the Pentagon. China exporting self-regulated lethal drones to the Middle East, a region already ravaged by decades of war, risks intensifying the bloodshed.
The Centre for New American security said in a report that the Chinese company Ziyan is negotiating to sell Blowfish A2, a killer robot capable of 60 millimeter mortar shells or a 35-40 millimeter grenade launcher, to the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
In addition, China is now marketing Blowfish A3: a helicopter drone with multiple machine guns incorporated to perform combat missions with targeted precision strikes, fixed locations and time detections. China’s state-owned newspaper, The Global Times, has described the creation of the new ‘killer robot’, Blowfish A3, as “a different aerodynamic design allowing the gun to shoot at more angles mid-flight”.
The Centre for New American security said in a report that the Chinese company Ziyan is negotiating to sell Blowfish A2, a killer robot capable of 60 millimeter mortar shells or a 35-40 millimeter grenade launcher, to the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
“It is worrying that China may be exporting military equipment to states known to use such equipment to commit serious human rights violations,” William Nee, an analyst at Amnesty International focused on China, told Al Bawaba on China’s alleged plan to export these weapons to the Middle East.
The Pentagon says China has no ethical guidelines on the use of these weapons. This means Chinese AI in military technology could be used for political ends. “All signs point to the construction of a 21st-century surveillance state designed to censor speech and deny basic human rights on an unprecedented scale. Look no further than its use of surveillance to systematically repress more than a million Muslim Uighurs,” Esper said in a speech in the beginning of November. To differentiate itself from China’s lack of ethical safeguards, the US Defense Innovation Board claims it has laid out a set of principles for the use of AI in the U.S. military.
China is also the second largest market in the world for investments from multinational corporations, leading many of these foreign companies to be directly or indirectly involved in financing these ‘killer robots’. “It is equally troubling that outside firms or multinational corporations are inadvertently or tacitly providing the technology or research behind China’s unethical use of AI,” Esper added.
The news comes after UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged artificial intelligence experts to restrict the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as LAWS, in March this year. The UN chief said: “Machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement are politically unacceptable, morally repugnant and should be prohibited by international law”.
“Amnesty International has been calling on states to take concrete steps to halt the spread of dangerous weapons like AI-powered drones with automatic capacities or killer robots. China should be working to find solutions to stop the development of such systems and should not be exporting them,” Nee told Al Bawaba.
“Amnesty International has been calling on states to take concrete steps to halt the spread of dangerous weapons like AI-powered drones with automatic capacities or killer robots. China should be working to find solutions to stop the development of such systems and should not be exporting them,” Nee told Al-Bawaba News.
China is leading in the development of LAWS. The weapons can identify, target and kill any person without human discretion to authorize the final decision of using lethal force. Whether such technology can be harnessed and regulated is yet to be seen.
Just a year ago, the senior executive at NORINCO, China’s third-largest defense company, Zeng Yi, said: “In future battlegrounds, there will be no people fighting.” China believes its technology will lead to wars where no people will have to fight on the battlefield. However, the replacement of humans with machines means no vigilance or prudence will be applied to targets during war and whoever is on the receiving end will be utterly defenseless.
a fully-autonomous lethal weapon system combined with the political and religious turmoil in the Middle East could be a recipe for increased bloodshed in a region that has already lived through decades of wars.
The repercussions of these killer robots being on the market with no ethical safeguards have wider implications concerning what it means to conduct war in the future. “They would be impossible to defend yourself against. Once the shooting starts, every human on the battlefield will be dead,” argues University of NSW Professor of Artificial Intelligence Toby Walsh.
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