The Obama administration announced this morning that it is “aligning” U.S. policy with the Ottawa Convention, an anti-mine pact that House Armed Services Committee leaders previously warned could tie the hands of the military.
Signing the 1997 treaty, which 160 countries have signed, would be unlikely to pass the Senate, so the White House instead announced changes to the country’s anti-personnel land mine policy.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the U.S. would “not use APL outside the Korean Peninsula; not assist, encourage, or induce anyone outside the Korean Peninsula to engage in activity prohibited by the Ottawa Convention; and undertake to destroy APL stockpiles not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.”
“These measures build on our June 2014 announcement that the United States will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel munitions that are not compliant with the Ottawa Convention, including to replace such munitions as they expire in the coming years,” Hayden said in a statement.
“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 landmine policy there at this time. 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.”
In March, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey called land mines “an important tool in the arsenal of the armed forces of the United States,” stressing that tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased. The Defense Department prepared a 30-page classified report back then on the dangers of signing the land-mine ban.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. James Kirby said in a statement this morning that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “fully supports” today’s administration action.
“The department will not use anti-personnel landmines outside the Korean Peninsula; will not assist, encourage, or induce others outside the Korean Peninsula to engage in activity prohibited by the Ottawa Convention; and will undertake steps to begin the destruction of APLs not required for the defense of South Korea,” Kirby said.
The administration announced in June that it would no longer produce or acquire land mines, leading congressional leaders to predict that President Obama would take unilateral action to commit the U.S. to the treaty bypassing the Senate.