Biden banned the use of most antipersonnel mines, reversing Trump-era policies

WASHINGTON – The United States on Tuesday restricted the use of antipersonnel mines by its military around the world, except on the Korean Peninsula, in fulfillment of President Biden’s campaign promise to repeal Politics from the Trump era which he called “reckless.”

This move goes back to the 2014 Obama administration’s policy of banning the use of antipersonnel mines, except in defense of South Korea. The Trump administration loosened those restrictions in 2020, citing a new focus on strategic competition with large powers and large armies.

Human rights groups have long condemned anti-personnel mines – small explosive weapons that usually detonate after an unsuspecting victim steps on them – as the leading cause of preventable civilian casualties. Mines kill thousands of people a year, many of them children, often after conflicts are over and ammunition is forgotten.

or White House statement on Tuesday, he said the move would return the United States to “most of the world’s countries committed to curbing the use of antipersonnel mines” and would bring U.S. policy more closely in line with the 1997 treaty. signed by 133 countries to ban weapons completely. The United States has never signed the treaty known as the Ottawa Convention, and the White House has stopped saying it would seek to accede to the pact.

One reason is that the Biden administration maintains an exception to the use of antipersonnel mines along the demilitarized zone, the 2.5-mile-wide buffer that separates North and South Korea since 1953. The United States planted thousands of mines there during the Cold War. war to help deter a huge ground invasion from the north.

South Korea detained the mines in October 1991, according to a spokeswoman for US forces in Korea. But some proponents of banning antipersonnel mines say that if the United States were a party to the Ottawa Convention, it would face restrictions on its cooperation with the South Korean military as a result of the presence of mines in the area.

These defenders hoped for faster action against Mr. Biden’s campaign promise, which was overdue due to a A review of Pentagon policy dating at least until April 2021. In 2020, Mr. Biden’s campaign told Vox that he would “immediately reverse this profoundly erroneous decision.”

Last June, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, sent a letter to Mr. Biden asking him to reinstate the 2014 policy as a first step towards a complete renunciation of weapons everywhere and accession to the Ottawa Treaty.

“The Ministry of Defense must be directed to take swift action to fully implement and institutionalize the policy,” he said. Leahy said in a statement emailed to reporters Monday. “It is a long overdue recognition that the heavy humanitarian and political costs of using these weapons far outweigh their limited military usefulness.

The senator also called on the White House to take further steps to put the United States on the path to joining treaties banning antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions. “None of these indiscriminate weapons, the dire consequences of which we are witnessing in Ukraine today, belong to the arsenals of civilized nations,” he said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Stanley L. Brown, chief assistant secretary of state at the State Department’s Bureau of Military Policy, said the United States currently has about three million antipersonnel mines in its inventory and will destroy any of them. were needed to defend South Korea.

Biden officials took the opportunity to condemn Russia’s use of antipersonnel mines in Ukraine, where the munitions “caused significant damage to civilian and civilian sites,” said Adrien Watson, a spokesman for the National Security Council. said in a statement in Tuesday.

In early April, evidence emerged for Russian use of a new type of anti-personnel mine in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which fired an explosive warhead when it sensed people nearby. In Bezruki, a city north of Kharkiv, The New York Times documents the use of anti-tank mines by Russia which can explode if taken by humans, which means they will be banned by international law.

The last time the United States used these types of mines on a large scale was during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. In one episode in 2002, US special operations forces in Afghanistan used a small mine configured as a hand grenade – called a pursuer deterrent ammunition – on a mission.

The US campaign to ban anti-personnel mines – a coalition of cluster munitions, an advocacy group that pushed the White House to join the Ottawa Treaty – welcomed news of a change in the Biden administration’s policies.

The move is an “important step”, the group said in a statement on Tuesday, reiterating his call on the president to “ban the use of anti-personnel mines without geographical exceptions, including the Korean Peninsula.”

“Mines on the Korean Peninsula continue to cause continued damage and serve as a barrier to peace,” the group said.

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