The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

civil ap­pli­ca­tions,” said the of­fi­cial who spoke with The Times. “One prob­lem is that coun­tries may per­ceive th­ese sys­tems as less provoca­tive than armed plat­forms and might use them in cross-bor­der op­er­a­tions in a way that ac­tu­ally stokes re­gional ten­sion.”

That ap­pears to be hap­pen­ing in Asia, where Ja­pan re­cently threat­ened to shoot down Chi­nese drones fly­ing near the dis­puted Senkaku Is­lands in the East China Sea.

North­east Asian coun­tries are likely to in­vest heav­ily in drone tech­nol­ogy, said Pa­trick M. Cronin, se­nior di­rec­tor of the Asi­aPa­cific Se­cu­rity Pro­gram at the Center for a New Amer­i­can Se­cu­rity in Wash­ing­ton.

“But even be­fore th­ese in­vest­ments are man­i­fested in wider de­ploy­ments, Ja­pan will be re­ly­ing on UAVs for wider and bet­ter sur­veil­lance, par­tic­u­larly around its south­west is­land chain, while China will be us­ing them to vari­ably chal­lenge Ja­panese ad­min­is­tra­tive con­trol and, in­di­rectly, pres­sure the United States to re­strain its ally,” said Mr. Cronin. “This vi­tal new tech­nol­ogy is im­prov­ing sit­u­a­tional aware­ness. But, para­dox­i­cally, if used more of­fen­sively the same tech­nol­ogy may also ac­cel­er­ate a mar­itime cri­sis in the East or even South China Sea.”

U.S. prece­dents

Oth­ers say the U.S. and its clos­est al­lies have set a prece­dent with clan­des­tine drone strikes in for­eign lands. Al­though Bri­tish forces have car­ried out hun­dreds of drone strikes in Afghanistan and Is­rael has used drone-fired mis­siles to kill sus­pected ter­ror­ists in Egypt’s Si­nai Penin­sula, as well as Is­lamic mil­i­tants in Gaza, the most wide­spread use has been di­rected by the U.S. mil­i­tary and CIA.

In ad­di­tion to strikes in Libya and So­ma­lia, the U.S. has car­ried out more than 375 strikes in Pak­istan and as many as 65 in Ye­men over the past nine years, ac­cord­ing to the Lon­don-based Bureau of In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism.

The con­cern, said the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion’s Mr. Singer, is that ad­ver­saries will point to U.S. be­hav­ior as an ex­cuse for car­ry­ing out cross-bor­der tar­get­ing of “high-value” in­di­vid­u­als.

“That’s where you have the prob­lem,” he said. “Tur­key car­ries out a strike in north­ern Iraq and then cites U.S. prece­dent in Pak­istan to jus­tify it. Or Iran car­ries out a drone strike in­side Syria that the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment says it’s fine with be­cause it’s a law­less area where what they call ‘ter­ror­ists’ are hang­ing out, and then they throw the prece­dent back at the U.S.

“That would make it sticky for us,” said Mr. Singer. “That’s not the broader norm we want out there.”

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