US to push rules on military drones
The United States and more than 30 countries plan to release a declaration next week on the export and subsequent use of military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, but major countries such as China, Russia, India and Japan have not signed up yet.
A senior US State Department official said on Thursday that the main concern of the countries not signing up yet is timing rather than the substance of the declaration.
The US government last year announced its policy on the transfer of UAVs.
The announcement of the declaration in New York on Oct 5 will be presided over by Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations. But the official in a background briefing on Thursday emphasized it is a joint document, known as the Joint Declaration on the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed and Strike-Enabled UAVs.
“This declaration is intended to basically signal that we are beginning a discussion. It’s a first step in a process of discussion about international standards for export,” he said.
The second step, according to the official, is for the governments joining the declaration to come together in an international working group in the spring of 2017 to talk about what international standards should look like.
But he added that it will be up to the governments to decide how long the process will take.
The official said that the declaration is not about creating a new export regime, or banning the development of the new technology in indigenous industry. Another official called it a confidence-building and transparency body.
The Obama administration has been under sharp criticism both at home and abroad for the drastic increase of drone strikes in countries in areas from South Asia and the Middle East to North Africa.
On July 1, US President Barack Obama for the first time admitted that US drone strikes had killed up to 116 civilians in counterterror attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and other places where the US is not engaged in active ground warfare. Many nongovernmental organizations, however, have put the number much higher, some at over 1,000.
So far, 33 governments have said they will join the declaration next week, but the official implied the number is fluid and will likely change in the coming days.
He said there is good representation from the Americas, Europe, South Asia, Africa and the Pacific Rim.
Reporters from China, India, Japan and Egypt, the only countries represented in Thursday’s briefing, were told that their governments are still in talks and have not joined the declaration yet.
The official indicated that the US first approached several of its NATO allies, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, on the initiative.