Al Jazeera America & Associated Press – 2014-09-29 01:12:38
US to Destroy Land Mine Arsenal, Except on Korean Peninsula
Al Jazeera Staff
(September 23, 2014) — The United States pledged Tuesday to destroy its land mine supply outside of the Korean peninsula, in Washington’s latest move to make good on a decade-old promise to sign up to an international treaty banning the weapons.
“We will diligently undertake to destroy stockpiles of these land mines that are not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
The US will also “not assist, encourage or induce anyone outside the Korean peninsula to engage in activity prohibited by the Ottawa Convention,” the White House said in a statement.
The announcement comes after persistent criticism of the US for failing to sign the 15-year-old Ottawa Convention, which aims to abolish the use of mines. US refusal to join their ranks places the country on a list that also includes Myanmar, North Korea and Uzbekistan.
The mine-ban agreement currently has 161 signatories — 80 percent of the world’s nations. Then-President Bill Clinton pledged in his 1994 address to the United Nations General Assembly to eventually eliminate the use of land mines.
Washington announced in late June that it would not expand its land mine stockpile and would eventually eliminate its supply to accede to the Ottawa Convention.
The US has one of the world’s largest stockpiles, with the number of the military’s land mines estimated at upwards of 10 million.
About 4,000 people around the world are killed or lose limbs to land mines every year, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
The last recorded US use of land mines was during the 1991 Gulf War, according to Human Rights Watch. The US has enforced an export ban on mines since 1992, and there has been no known US production of mines since 1997.
Obama Administration Creates
Korean Land Mine Exception
WASHINGTON (September 23, 2014) — Three months after announcing its intention to largely comply with an international treaty banning land mines, the United States on Tuesday carved out an exception for its stockpile of the weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
The White House, Pentagon and State Department announced the move in simultaneous statements as President Barack Obama traveled to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly. They said the US remains committed to joining the Ottawa Convention that involves 161 other nations, including all other NATO members, and will uphold treaty requirements outside of Korea.
That means the US will not use anti-personnel land mines outside of the Korean peninsula, will not “assist, encourage or induce” anyone outside the peninsula to do so and will move to destroy land mine stocks not required to on the peninsula.
“Even as we take these further steps, the unique circumstances on the Korean Peninsula and our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea preclude us from changing our anti-personnel land mine policy there at this time,” the White House said. “We will continue our diligent efforts to pursue solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow us to accede to the Ottawa Convention while ensuring our ability to meet our alliance commitments to the Republic of Korea.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said protecting South Korea from a potential invasion by the North remains a “paramount concern” and that until the US is able to join the treaty it would work toward its “spirit and humanitarian aims.”
The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “fully supports” the changes.
In June, the White House announced that the US would not produce or acquire anti-personnel munitions that do not comply with the Ottawa treaty.
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