The UK wants to work with China on AI - despite security concerns

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly discusses the threats posed by AI, the US decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, the UK's Illegal Migration Bill - and whether the degree he studied would be scrapped under new government plans.

By Will Tullis, ITV News Washington DC Producer

The UK wants to work with China on Artificial Intelligence (AI), despite fears that collaboration could compromise security.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told ITV News that the UK wants to work with China - and other countries - when it comes to the development and regulation of AI.

"This is a technology that will not recognise or respect borders", he told ITV News at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

"We and China and every other country in the world has a real incentive to work make sure we harness the positives but also protect ourselves and everyone else from the potential pitfalls", he added.

The Foreign Secretary spoke to ITV News before chairing the UN Security Council's first ever briefing on AI. UN Secretary General António Guterres spoke at Tuesday's (18 July) briefing alongside two AI experts.

"The malicious use of AI systems for terrorist, criminal or state purposes could cause horrific levels of death and destruction, widespread trauma and deep psychological damage on an unimaginable scale", Mr Guterres said.

"No country will be untouched by AI.

"So we must involve and engage the widest coalition of international actors from all sectors", he added.

Calls for international cooperation comes despite fears in US intelligence, military and political circles, that working with China on AI could pose security risks.

"The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a regime determined to weaponise AI to threaten global democracy", US Congressman Mike Gallagher said on Tuesday.

"[The CCP is determined to] create the world's largest techno-totalitarian surveillance state", he added.

Speaking to a congressional subcommittee on cyber, Mr Gallagher warned that the US must develop AI, after China declared it will be the world's leader in AI by 2030.

"We must...ensure artificial intelligence, and its associated norms and guardrails, are defined by freedom and our ideals, not the CCP's", Mr Gallagher said.

US counterintelligence officials have also warned about working too closely with China on AI.

The US National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) has said the Chinese government has a sweeping national plan to dominate AI and other emerging technologies.

According to the NCSC, China acquires data and knowledge through illegal means - including hacking - and by legal means - including investments and partnerships with Western businesses and researchers. China is targeting "hundreds of billions of dollars" worth of US technology, according to NCSC analysis.

The Foreign Secretary is in New York this week while the UK holds the presidency of the UN Security Council in July.

Mr Cleverly's visit comes the week the UK passed the Illegal Migration Bill, which the UN says "extinguishes" access to asylum in the UK for anyone who arrives irregularly, having passed through a country - however briefly -where they did not face persecution.

UN Commissioner for Human Rights Filippo Grandi said the bill violates the UK's obligations under international human rights and refugee law.

When asked how he felt visiting the UN after Mr Grandi's comments, the Foreign Secretary said he is "absolutely confident" the bill complies with international law.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...