Biden signs order reversing Trump policy on use of land mines

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Biden signs order reversing Trump policy on use of land mines
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President Joe Biden announced a resumption of US restrictions on the use of landmines in combat zones on Monday, reversing a policy decision Donald Trump made in 2020.

A statement from the National Security Council (NSC) confirmed the move, which will reimpose restrictions on the production, transport and sale of anti-personnel landmines in the US. Under the new order, the US will align its policies with a 1997 treaty it did not sign which globally restrictricted the use of land mines.

It will not ban US landmine usage outright; only anti-personnel mines are affected by the Ottawa treaty. The treaty does not affect anti-vehicle mines or other formes of explosive traps.

In a statement, the White House cited the “devastating impact that anti-personnel landmines can have in the context of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine” as a reason for the decision.

“Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing an important step to limit the United States’ use of anti-personnel landmines. At the President’s direction, the United States will align its policy concerning use of these weapons outside of the Korean Peninsula with key provisions of the Ottawa Convention, the international treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines,” the statement read.

“Additionally, the president will prohibit the development, production, and acquisition of anti-personnel landmines prohibited under the Ottawa Convention, and will direct the Department of Defense to undertake diligent efforts to pursue alternatives to anti-personnel landmines that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention, while ensuring our continued ability to respond to global contingencies,” it continued.

The use of anti-personnel land mines in combat zones is a highly controversial practice which leaves areas uninhabitable and extremely dangerous for civilians and military personnel alike until their time-consuming and costly removal. Many abandoned mines are blamed for causing horrific accidents in areas repopulated by civilians after combat ends.

Donald Trump’s administration moved in January of 2020, just a year before he would leave office, to reverse a decision made Barack Obama to bring the US largely in line with the 1997 Ottawa treaty, which prohibited the use of mines and directed nations to destroy their stockpiles within four years. At the time, the White House claimed that ending the use of anti-personnel landmines would put US troops at a disadvantage. At the time, the White House said it would allow the use of landmines that can be deactivated remotely after their usefulness has expired.

"The Department of Defense has determined that restrictions imposed on American forces by the Obama administration's policy could place them at a severe disadvantage during a conflict against our adversaries," a White House statement declared in January of 202, adding that their usage would be allowed under “exceptional circumstances”.

The Biden administration’s order contains notable exception of the Korean Peninsula, where anti-personnel landmine usage will still be allowed in line with US police pursued by the Obama administration. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea remains one of the most heavily-mined places on the planet.

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