US abandons use of landmines outside Korea

Washington, Sep 24 (IANS/EFE) The United States announced Tuesday that it will no longer use anti-personnel landmines outside the Korean Peninsula.

“Today’s announcement also means that we will not assist, encourage, or induce others to use, stockpile, produce or transfer anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula,” Efe quoted State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki as saying.

“This announcement brings us one step closer in aligning ourselves with the international humanitarian movement embodied by the Ottawa Convention, which includes over 160 states, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations,” Psaki said.

The Demilitarised Zone, established between North and South Korea by a 1953 armistice after a three-year-long war, is still one of the most densely mined areas in the world.

“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,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

In 1997, then-President Bill Clinton pledged the US would take steps to join the Ottawa Convention by 2006, but the George W. Bush administration halted the process in 2004 amid the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Soon after taking office in January 2009, President Barack Obama instructed the Defense and State departments to review the use of anti-personnel landmines and initiatives for removing mines from former conflict zones.

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