The United States is taking a major step toward joining other nations of the world in observing the spirit and humanitarian aims of the international treaty banning the use of land mines.
In all areas of the world where the U.S. engages in military operations, except the Korean peninsula, our nation will adhere to key components of the 1997 Ottawa Convention, which bars the use, stockpiling, and production of anti-personnel land mines, or APLs.
Further, the U.S. will continue to pursue solutions that will allow our nation to ultimately accede to the treaty, while at the same time ensuring our ability to meet our alliance commitment to defend the Republic of Korea. The unique circumstances on the Korean Peninsula and our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea preclude us from changing our APL policy there at this time.
More than 160 nations have acceded to the Ottawa Convention, but the United States, China and many others have not because of defense commitments and other reasons. The Obama Administration pledged to review and update U.S. policy on this issue, and the September 23 announcement follows previous commitments to limit the use and production of APLs.
Banning them has been at the center of an international campaign for decades. Unlike other munitions that are designed to explode on impact, landmines pose a threat to people and remove land from safe, productive activity for years, even decades after a conflict ends. Such landmines, whether anti-vehicle or anti-personnel, instill fear in communities, and are a lethal barrier to the provision of humanitarian assistance in post-conflict situations and prevent long-term development.
Once planted, these landmines don't go away unless they are cleared away at a very high cost, in both money and personnel. But not removing landmines is even more expensive and damaging to communities. Years after a conflict has ended, swaths of productive land, as well as important infrastructure, such as canals and roads, can remain inaccessible.
The United States is proud to be the world’s single largest financial supporter of humanitarian aid to remove land mines. Since 1993, the United States has invested more than $2.3 billion in Conventional Weapons Destruction programs, including humanitarian mine action assistance, through dozens of partner organizations in 90 countries.
Our assistance has helped 15 nations to become free from the humanitarian impact of landmines and has contributed to a decrease of approximately 60 percent in the annual number of casualties from mines and explosive remnants of war since the Ottawa Convention entered into force in 1999.
The United States will continue our diligent efforts to pursue solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow us to join the Ottawa Convention.