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China's Drone Program Called "Alarming"

If China, for instance, sends killer drones into Kazakhstan to hunt minority Uighur Muslims it accuses of plotting terrorism, what will the United States say?

What if India uses remotely controlled craft to hit terrorism suspects in Kashmir, or Russia sends drones after militants in the Caucasus?

American officials who protest will likely find their own example thrown back at them. "The problem is that we're creating an international norm" -- asserting the right to strike preemptively against those we suspect of planning attacks, argues Dennis M. Gormley, a senior research fellow at the University of Pittsburgh and author of "Missile Contagion," who has called for tougher export controls on American drone technology. "The copycatting is what I worry about most." The qualities that have made lethal drones so attractive to the Obama administration for counterterrorism appeal to many countries and, conceivably, to terrorist groups: a capacity for leisurely surveillance and precise strikes, modest cost, and most important, no danger to the operator, who may sit in safety thousands of miles from the target. Dozens of countries have bought or built their own unmanned aircraft, primarily for surveillance, but as Scott points out, "adding missiles or bombs is hardly a technical challenge."

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