WASHINGTON – The United States on Tuesday restricted military use of land mines worldwide, except on the Korean Peninsula, meeting President Biden’s campaign pledge to undo Trump-era policy which he has called “reckless.”
The move effectively goes back to the 2014 policy established by the Obama administration that banned the use of land mines, except for the defense of South Korea. The Trump administration eased those restrictions in 2020, citing a new focus on strategic competition with major military powers.
Human rights groups have long denounced landmines – small explosive weapons that often explode after an unsuspecting victim steps on them – as the leading cause of preventable civilian casualties. Landmines kill thousands of people each year, many of them children, often long after conflicts are over and bombs are forgotten.
One Statement of the White House said on Tuesday that the move would put the United States back in the category of “the vast majority of countries in the world committed to limiting the use of land-based anti-personnel mines” and align U.S. policy with 1997 treaty signed by 133 countries Weapons are banned completely. The United States has never signed the treaty, known as the Ottawa Convention, and the White House has stopped short of saying it would seek to join the treaty.
One reason is that the Biden administration is maintaining an exception to the use of land mines along the Demilitarized Zone, the 2.5-mile-wide buffer that has divided North and South Korea since 1953. The United States has put thousands of mines there during the Cold War. to help prevent an overwhelming ground invasion from the North.
South Korea seized the minefields in October 1991, according to a spokesman for US Forces Korea. But some advocates of banning mines say that if the United States were to be a party to the Ottawa Convention, it would face restrictions on cooperation with the South Korean military due to the presence of mines in the area. .
Those supporters had hoped for quicker action on Mr. Biden’s campaign promise, which was fulfilled because Reviewing Pentagon Policy Dating back to at least April 2021. In 2020, Mr. Biden’s campaign tell Vox that he would “quickly retract this deeply wrong decision.”
Last June, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, sent a letter to Mr. Biden asked Britain to reinstate the 2014 policy as a first step towards complete abandonment of weapons everywhere and accession to the Ottawa treaty.
“The Department of Defense should be directed to urgently implement and fully institutionalize the policy,” Leahy said in a statement sent to reporters Monday. “This is a long overdue admission that the dire humanitarian and political costs of using these weapons far outweigh their limited military utility.”
The senator also urged the White House to take further steps to put the United States on the path to joining treaties banning anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions. “Neither of these indiscriminate weapons, the terrible consequences of which we are seeing in Ukraine today, are not in the arsenals of civilized nations,” he said in the statement.
During a press conference with reporters on Tuesday, Stanley L. Brown, deputy chief assistant secretary at the State Department’s Political-Military Administration, said that the United States currently has about three million land mines. in stock and will destroy any fruit. not necessary to defend Korea.
Biden administration officials took the opportunity to condemn Russia’s use of land mines in Ukraine, where bombs “have caused great harm to civilians and civilian objects,” said Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman. member of the National Security Council, said in a statement on Tuesday.
In early April, evidence emerged of Russia uses new anti-personnel mines in the city of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, where an explosive warhead was launched when it sensed people nearby. In Bezruky, a town north of Kharkiv, The New York Times recorded the use of anti-tank mines on land by Russia can explode if picked up by humans, which means they are banned under international law.
The last time the United States used these mines on a large scale was during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. In a single episode in 2002, US Special Operations forces in Afghanistan used them. a small mine that configures like a grenade – known as a pursuit deterrent – on a mission.
US Campaign to Ban Landmines – The Cluster Munition Coalition, an advocacy group that has pressured the White House to join the Ottawa treaty, welcomed the news of the Biden administration’s policy change.
The move is “an important step”, the group said in a statement on Tuesday, reiterating the president’s call to “ban the use of land mines without geographical exception, including on the Korean Peninsula.”
The mines on the Korean Peninsula continue to cause harm and be a barrier to peace, the group said.