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Authors: Smith, Dillon
Advisors: Chyba, Christopher
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: The rise of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as “drones”, has been one of the most significant military developments of the past decade. UAVs have proliferated rapidly across the world as the US’s ‘drone campaign’ against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates has gained notoriety Many policymakers and experts have regarded this development with apprehension, especially as it applies to East Asia. As drones are a relatively new technology and have the potential to promote risky behavior, they are concerned that UAVs could introduce a dangerously destabilizing element into the region, even leading to armed conflict. This thesis will examine the proliferation of UAVs in East Asia in detail and will determine whether these fears are warranted. To the extent that they are, it will suggest actions the US government should take to promote security and stability in the region. Initially this thesis lays out a classification system that helps to understand UAVs and their proliferation, and then examines the early development of these systems and their extensive use in the ‘War on Terror’. It then moves to East Asia and analyzes the geopolitical trends shaping the region, as well as the maritime territorial disputes that have recently erupted. Next this thesis delves into the proliferation of UAVs in East Asia and finds that ten states have integrated unmanned aircraft into their militaries. Three of these (China, Japan, and South Korea) are likely to have strategic drones akin to those used in the US ‘drone campaigns’ by 2017. It further examines how the (limited) usage of UAVs in the region to date has set precedents for their future use. With this background it then assesses the impacts, both positive and negative, that the proliferation of UAVs are likely to have on the region’s geopolitics. Unmanned systems should significantly enhance the surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of several nations surrounding the South China Sea, providing them with better intelligence (which can lead to better decision making) and serving as a deterrent against aggressive behavior. On the other hand UAVs are likely to increase tension––they encourage riskier behavior, their operators are inexperienced, and they currently have no established norms of use, in conflict or in peacetime. Drones are also likely to become sources of instability as states, particularly the PRC, look to use them as tools of statecraft to advance their territorial claims. In light of this negative potential for regional security, this thesis examines diplomatic options for the United States in promoting peace and stability. It recommends that the US pursue the issue through regional forums and promote the normalization of UAVs in its diplomatic efforts.
Extent: 130 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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