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US lawmakers push White House to join landmine treaty

The White House has yet to announce what steps it will take, if any, to repeal a 2020 revised landmine policy but some lawmakers are calling for President Joe Biden to expedite the ongoing review and put the United States on a path to joining the Ottawa Convention.

On 22 June, 21 lawmakers signed a letter addressed to Biden calling for him to “reinstate” a 2014 policy prohibiting the use of landmines outside the Korean Peninsula.

“We further urge you to direct the Pentagon to expeditiously review its plans for the defence of the Republic of Korea and provide a classified report to you and the Congress describing the options for defending the Republic of Korea with alternatives to anti-personnel mines, and of finally putting the United States on a definitive path to accede to the treaty – an important US foreign policy goal announced by President Clinton and reaffirmed by President Obama – by 2024,” the bi-partisan signatories wrote.

The lawmakers are referencing a treaty banning anti-personnel landmines that went into effect in 1999. Often referred to as the Ottawa Convention, 164 countries have signed it, although others – notably the United States, China, India, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and Iran – have not.

In 2014 the Obama administration announced that it would not use such weapons outside the Korean Peninsula and would destroy stockpiles not required there. However, in 2020 the Trump administration lifted these “geographic limitations” on anti-personnel landmines as long as the weapons included “compliant self-destruction mechanisms”. The new policy also enabled combatant commanders to authorise landmine emplacements.

The Spider Activated Volcano Obstacle (SAVO) mock-ups proved successful during Saber Junction 2017 at Hohenfels, Germany. In fiscal year 2022, the army intends to complete SAVO rapid prototyping and qualification testing. Some US lawmakers are calling on the White House to ban such landmines.  (US Army)

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