U.S. To Get Rid Of All Land Mines, Except The Ones In Korea

The United States will be destroying its stockpile of land mines, with one notable exception:

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 U.S. 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 U.S. for failing to sign the 15-year-old Ottawa Convention, which aims to abolish the use of mines. U.S. 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 U.S. has one of the world’s largest stockpiles, with the number of the military’s land mines estimated at upwards of 10 million.

The failure of the U.S. to join the convention has always been about Korea, where networks of land mines on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone are intended to slow the advance of a North Korean invasion should it ever occur, and to act as a deterrent to such an invasion to begin with. While Washington has taken much international heat over the years, through three separate Presidents now, the insistence on maintaining the deployment of land mines in North Korea has always struck me as being a prudent and necessary move given the situation on the peninsula even though it has often led to bad press for the United States. Perhaps at some point when the tensions on the peninsula have died down, these land mines can be removed. Until then, keeping them in place seems like the best option.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.