Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of Germany is hoping that China will be brought into the global dialogue on nuclear disarmament. He also wants stronger regulations to control the use of autonomous weapons.
With China having a free hand over nuclear weapons, Maas believes that Western nations need to increase pressure on Beijing to force them to come to discussions on disarming. China’s unwillingness to be party to an international agreement on the topic of nukes was pointed out to be the cause of the recent fallout between the U.S. and Russia in which both countries exited from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
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“In the decades since the end of the Cold War, there was not much need to talk about it [nuclear disarmament]. But we have to lead the debate because there are clear threat scenarios. Our attitude is that general armament should not be the result of the new competition of the great powers,” Maas said in a statement (Sputnik News).
As per the INF agreement, Russia had committed to never build missiles capable of exceeding a range of 300 miles. However, when U.S. intelligence agencies discovered that Moscow was developing missiles able to breach those limits, it asked Russia to dispose of the weapons. After Russia refused, America pulled out of the treaty.
Maas thinks that Russia has been forced to pursue developing such missiles because of China’s growing power. Beijing is said to possess several lethal missiles that can easily reach important destinations in and around Russia. As such, Moscow has chosen to develop missiles that exceed 300 miles to counter the Chinese threat, though nobody in the Kremlin admits to it.
By bringing China into the INF treaty, the renewed competition for newer nuclear weapons can be contained. However, it is also true that Beijing has been aiming to become a major nuclear power and a leader in the field for a long time. Chinese leaders are even said to be debating abandoning the “no first use” policy regarding nuclear weapons.
“It is evident that as China modernizes its nuclear forces, it is also debating a shift in strategy, including the abandonment of its No First Use (NFU) policy… One view is that NFU may impose certain limitations on the strategic use of China’s Rocket Force, implying reduced crisis response flexibility due to the highly centralized decision-making in employing nuclear weapons. Moreover, some believe that NFU reduces the credibility of China’s already small nuclear forces, and that abandoning NFU may enhance China’s nuclear deterrent,” Nan Li, a security commentator from the National University of Singapore, said in a statement (The Diplomat).
Controlling autonomous weapons
In a weapons conference in Berlin, Maas also brought attention to the growing threat of autonomous weapons and highlighted the need to establish global rules on their use. He was speaking at the “2019. Capturing Technology. Rethinking Arms Control” event and warned that autonomous weapons brought uncontrollable risks to human society.
“Killer robots that make life-or-death decisions on the basis of anonymous data sets, and completely beyond human control, are already a shockingly real prospect today… Fundamentally, it’s about whether we control the technology or it controls us… The multilateral political system appears paralyzed in the face of potential threats… We want to want to codify the principle of human control over all deadly weapons systems internationally, and thereby take a big step toward a global ban on fully autonomous weapons,” he said in a statement (DW).
The European Union and the United Nations have already called for a ban on autonomous weapons. Later this month, the United Nations will hold the “Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)” event in Geneva in which the subject of autonomous weapons and regulations will be up for talks.