One Step Closer…

Yesterday the Obama Administration announced another change in the United States’s landmine policy (Washington Post).  This change, which bans most uses of anti-personnel landmines by the US, builds upon previous policy announcements while specifically carving out an exception for use on the Korean Peninsula to defend South Korea from a North Korean invasion.

In his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative where he discussed the policy change, Obama also quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  In the history of the US effort to ban landmines, that arc is very long, more than two decades and counting and spanning four presidencies.  Yesterday’s announcement was another small step towards a complete ban on landmines.  To quickly cover that history, here’s a summary of the steps to date:


1992 – George H.W. Bush bans export of anti-personnel landmines (legislation written by Sen. Patrick Leahy)

1994 – Bill Clinton calls for the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines (address to the United Nations General Assembly)

1996 – Bill Clinton bans use on non-detectable (“low-metal” or plastic) anti-personnel landmines (Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons)

2004 – George W. Bush bans use of all persistent (“dumb”) landmines, anti-personnel and anti-vehicle (published US Landmine Policy)

June 2014 – Barack Obama ends all procurement and production of anti-personnel landmines (announcement at Maputo Review Conference)

September 2014 – Barack Obama bans all use of anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula, pledges to destroy all mines not needed for the defense of South Korea (White House announcement)


At this point, the US could now be fully compliant with the Mine Ban Treaty except for the Korean reservation.  Until that reservation is removed, the US cannot achieve the stated goal of accession to the Mine Ban Treaty.  One more step, Mr. Obama.  The world is waiting.

Michael P. Moore

September 24, 2014


4 Comments on “One Step Closer…”

  1. James Cobey says:

    I thought the mines in Korea were under the control of the Korean army. Therefore the US should be able to sign the treaty since the Korean mines are not the responsibility of the US

    • Very true, but should North Korea attack, then the US takes over operational command of the South Korean forces and all of a sudden, South Korea’s landmines become the US’s. Also, the statements made clear that the US will reserve a portion of its current stockpile (about 3 million mines) for possible use on the Korean peninsula which means that at least some of the US’s options for responding to a North Korean invasion include the use of more mines.

  2. Mike Kendellen says:

    We all like progress, which the US announcement is, but until the US accedes to the treaty they are limited in their participation at the intersessional meetings and States Party meetings, which is unfortunate because the US has a lot to offer in terms of lessons learned from clearance operations, victim assistance and capacity building in more countries than any other donor. These two meetings and the treaty itself would greatly benefit from a more engaged US.

  3. kutukamus says:

    One step indeed. Same circumstance, though—decisions are made by some remote ‘friends’ elsewhere. Nobody wants to ask: “Whose choice is it?”

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