GENEVA – Japan, the United States and other countries have blocked any advancement in U.N. talks toward legally binding measures to ban and regulate the development and use of lethal autonomous weapon systems. The Sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons ended Friday in Geneva without progress, failing to reflect eight years of work and leaving countries and nongovernmental organizations that have called for legally binding rules expressing disappointment. Also referred to as "killer robots," autonomous weapons are artificial intelligence-powered weapons using facial recognition and algorithms. Once activated, the weapons can select and attack targets without the assistance of a human operator. They pose ethical, legal and security risks.
A project team of Komeito, the junior partner in the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition, has presented to Foreign Minister Taro Kono its proposals for an international agreement to regulate robotic weapons development. Deployment of lethal autonomous weapons systems, or LAWS, cannot be overlooked in terms of international humanitarian law and ethics, according to the proposals released Monday. Komeito called for agreeing on a document, such as a political declaration or a code of conduct, within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Kono said he will refer to the proposals. Ethical issues and military advantages of such weapons have been under discussion within the framework of the convention since 2014.
There is widespread public support for a ban on so-called "killer robots", which campaigners say would "cross a moral line" after which it would be difficult to return. Polling across 26 countries found over 60 per cent of the thousands asked opposed lethal autonomous weapons that can kill with no human input, and only around a fifth backed them. The figures showed public support was growing for a treaty to regulate these controversial new technologies - a treaty which is already being pushed by campaigners, scientists and many world leaders. However, a meeting in Geneva at the close of last year ended in a stalemate after nations including the US and Russia indicated they would not support the creation of such a global agreement. Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, who coordinates the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, compared the movement to successful efforts to eradicate landmines from battlefields.