U.S. to limit use of anti-personnel landmines, White House says

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has decided to limit the use of anti-personnel landmines, joining most countries around the world including all of its NATO allies, in prohibiting the use of the weapons, the White House said on Tuesday.

The move will align U.S policy with the Ottawa Convention, the international treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines, the White House said in a statement.

“The administration’s actions today are in a sharp contrast to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where there’s compelling evidence that Russian forces are using explosive munitions, including landmines, in an irresponsible manner,” senior State Department official Stanley Brown said.

Russia’s use of explosive munitions is causing extensive harm to civilians and damaging vital civilian infrastructure, Brown added.

The White House said Tuesday’s move reflects President Joe Biden’s belief that the landmines “have a disproportionate impact on civilians, including children, long after fighting has stopped.”

The change does not affect U.S. anti-personnel landmine policy on the Korean Peninsula due to the unique circumstances there and the commitment of the United States to defending South Korea, the White House said.

The United States will also work towards destroying all anti-personnel landmine stockpiles except for those that are required for the defense of South Korea, it said.

Brown told reporters that there are an estimated 3 million landmines in the stockpile.

The United States last used anti-personnel landmines in 1991 during the Gulf War, Brown said, with the exception of a single incident in Afghanistan around 2002.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2020 relaxed restrictions on the U.S. military’s use of anti-personnel land mines, arguing that the previous policy could put American troops at a “severe disadvantage” in a move that was criticized by arms control proponents.

President Barack Obama’s administration said in 2014 that it would no longer produce or otherwise acquire anti-personnel land mines, including to replace existing U.S. stockpiles.

The United States had also prohibited the use of the weapons outside of the Korean Peninsula.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Chris Gallagher; editing by Tim Ahmann and Angus MacSwan)