AI must not be allowed to control nuclear weapons, US official warns China and Russia

Washington has made ‘strong commitment’ underlining that humans have total control over nuclear weapons, State Department official says

Arpan Rai
Thursday 02 May 2024 09:52 BST
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A senior US official urged China and Russia to commit to the understanding that only humans, and not artificial intelligence, will be allowed to make decisions on deployment of nuclear weapons.

Washington has made a “clear and strong commitment” underlining that humans have total control over nuclear weapons, State Department arms control official Paul Dean told an online briefing on Thursday. The UK and France have also followed suit, the official said.

“We would welcome a similar statement by China and the Russian Federation,” Mr Dean, who is the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Arms Control, Deterrence and Stability, said.

"We think it is an extremely important norm of responsible behaviour and we think it is something that would be very welcome in a P5 context," the official said, referring to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Officials in China and Russia have not immediately issued a comment.

In February, China, which is expanding its nuclear weapons capabilities, urged that the largest nuclear powers should first negotiate a no-first-use treaty between each other.

Last year, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia is suspending its participation in a key nuclear arms START deal with the US, in a move that appeared to send a stark warning about the use of nuclear weapons in the war on Ukraine.

The new START treaty is a landmark agreement between the US and Russia, allowing the world’s two largest nuclear powers to reduce and limit each other’s arsenal. Under the treaty, which was last extended back in 2021 through to 2026, the two nations are allowed to inspect each others’ nuclear weapons facilities.

Last week, as US secretary of state Antony Blinken and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi met in Beijing, bilateral talks included the spread of artificial intelligence technology.

Officials from both sides agreed to hold their first high-level bilateral talks on artificial intelligence in the coming weeks, Mr Blinken said they would share views on how best to manage risks and safety surrounding the technology.

US president Joe Biden’s administration has been pushing to deepen separate discussions with China over both nuclear weapons policy and the growth of artificial intelligence.

Officials in Beijing and Washington, aiming to normalise military communications, resumed nuclear weapons discussions in January but the two sides did not agree for a formal arms control negotiation which is not expected any time soon.

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