US moves closer to banning landmines

US pledges to destroy stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines, except those used to defend South Korea.

    The US has promised to destroy its stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines, and comply with an international prohibition treaty in all areas except the "No Man's Land" on the Korean Peninsula.

    Barack Obama said on Tuesday that his administration would take another step towards complying with the Ottowa treaty, which was agreed in 1997 and has been signed by 162 countries.

    The US president's statement was made at the annual Bill Clinton philanthropy convention in New York, and on the 20th anniversary of the former president's pledge to eliminate the weapons from the US arsenal.

    "Outside of the unique circumstance of the Korean Peninsula, where we have a longstanding commitment to the defence of our ally, South Korea, the US will not use anti-personnel landmines," Obama said. 

    We will begin destroying our stockpiles not required for the defence of South Korea.

    Barack Obama, US president

    "We will begin destroying our stockpiles not required for the defence of South Korea. And we're going to continue to work to find ways that would allow us to ultimately comply fully and accede to the Ottawa Convention."

    In addition, the US said it would neither assist nor encourage anyone outside the region to use such weapons.

    Human Rights Watch estimates the US has about nine million mines in its stockpile.

    The move brings the US closer to adhering to Ottawa, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.

    Washington had only been able to pinpoint a single use of a landmine by its forces in a military situation, apart from between the two Koreas, in  the last 20 years, though the official would not say where it took place.

    Anti-landmine campaigners welcomed the move, but called on Obama to go further and ban the use of landmines everywhere.

    "It's good that the Obama administration continues to inch toward joining the treaty, but Korean civilians need protections from these weapons just as much as people in every other country," said Steve Goose, the chairman of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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