September 16, 2019
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 In Autonomous Weapon Systems

Country: China
Delegate Name: Tanvi Kulkarni

Around 800 AD, gunpowder was invented in China, changing forever how warfare was waged, and beginning what is considered the first revolution in weapon development. In July of 1945, the United States began the second revolution with the successful splitting of the atom in the desert of New Mexico. If deployed, the Lethal Autonomous Weapon System (LAWS), known colloquially as “killer robots,” would mark the third revolution in weapon development, as they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. Even after the UN picked up the topic over half a decade ago, there is no established definition of LAW. This further complicates the international response to the emergence of increasingly autonomous military technology, whether regulation or a developmental ban.

The UN took up the issue of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems in 2013, with an Informal Meeting of Experts during the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (the CCW). The CCW had already been expanded to include protocols restricting Non-Detectable Fragments, Mines, Incendiary Weapons, Blinding Weapons, and Explosive Remnants of War. And since 2013, China and 30 other countries have supported the Stop Killer Robots campaign (launched by Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental organizations).

Even today, the People’s Republic of China exhibits a desire to negotiate and conclude a new protocol for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to ban the use of fully autonomous lethal weapons systems. China is greatly concerned with the ability of LAWS to effectively distinguish between soldiers and civilians and calls on all countries to exercise precaution, and to refrain, in particular, from any indiscriminate use against civilians. This ban that China proposes to the UN, categorizes LAWS based on five principles. Those being: lethality, autonomy, the impossibility for termination, indiscriminate effect, and evolution. To further explicate, China defines LAWS as weapons with an absence of human intervention and control for the entire process of executing a task. Using these categories and definition, the UN can work together to formulate a cohesive and safe plan for all nations. However, China would also like to emphasize that there should not be any preset premises or prejudged outcomes that may impede the development of AI technology.

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