US to push rules on mil­i­tary drones

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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.

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