July/August 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball and Magritte Gordaneer

After a months-long policy review, the Biden administration announced on June 21 that it would reverse the Trump administration’s policy that allowed for the broader use of antipersonnel landmines. The move means the United States is reverting to Obama-era policy that bans the use of weapons anywhere except in support of its ally South Korea on the Korean Peninsula.

The policy to limit the use of antipersonnel landmines “will align U.S. policy and practice with key provisions of the Ottawa Convention for all activities outside of the Korean Peninsula context,” Stan said. Brown, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the United States. politico-military affairs, said during a press briefing on June 21.

Following the decision, Brown said, “we are not going to export or transfer antipersonnel landmines; we will not use them outside of the Korean Peninsula. We also undertake to destroy all anti-personnel stocks not necessary for the defense of [South] Korea; and again, we will not aid, encourage or induce anyone outside of the Korean Peninsula context to engage in any activity that would be prohibited by the convention.

As a candidate, President Joe Biden pledged to reverse what he called President Donald Trump’s “reckless” stance on landmines.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, commonly referred to as the Ottawa Convention or Mine Ban Treaty, aims to end the use anti-personnel landmines in the world. It was opened for signature on December 3, 1997 and entered into force on March 1, 1999.

Today, 164 countries are party to the treaty, representing more than 80% of the world’s states and all NATO allies except the United States. The Ottawa Convention has won strong global support because anti-personnel landmines are indiscriminate weapons that devastate civilian communities during conflict and for decades after conflict ends.

Brown said the United States “will continue to pursue material and operational solutions that would be consistent with the Ottawa Convention and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention, while that we at the same time [time] ensure our ability to meet our alliance commitments.

Pressed on when the United States might deploy an alternative weapon along the DMZ that would allow it to join the Ottawa Convention, Brown said “that is being worked out, but I should refer you to the Ministry of Defense for details on the acquisition and operating capabilities of future aircraft.

Currently, the United States maintains no active antipersonnel minefields, not even in South Korea or in the DMZ with North Korea, where the landmines all belong to South Korea. According to the US State Department, the United States possesses approximately three million antipersonnel landmines, which are defined as victim-activated. Aside from a single use in Afghanistan in 2002, the United States has not used these weapons since the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

“The administration’s policy stands in stark contrast to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where there is compelling evidence that Russian forces are using explosive ordnance, including landmines, irresponsibly, causing extensive damage to civilians and damage to vital civilian infrastructure there,” he added. said Brown. Russia is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, but Ukraine is.

The United States recently transferred the Claymore mines to Ukraine. They are controlled detonation weapons, which means they tend to be less lethal to civilians. The Ottawa Convention prohibits victim-activated anti-personnel mines.

The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines hailed the policy adjustment, calling it “an important first step toward the ultimate goal of U.S. membership in the Landmine Ban Treaty and prohibition of the use, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines worldwide”.

States parties to the Ottawa Convention, including Germany, Norway, Spain and Switzerland, hailed Biden’s policy adjustment in statements delivered at Mine Ban Treaty meetings. Geneva in late June, which the United States attended as an observer and used as one to announce its new policy.

The Norwegian delegation, in a June 21 tweet, said: “Norway warmly welcomes the new United States landmine policy, [it] in closer alignment with the requirements of the Mine Ban Treaty and an important step towards eventual membership”. The German delegation called it “an important step towards achieving a mine-free world and the universalization of the Ottawa Convention”.