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Clinton Announces Anti-personnel Mine Ban,

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 20, 1996 – President Bill Clinton launched an international effort to ban anti-personnel land mines.

Anti-personnel mines kill or maim an average of 500 civilians worldwide each week, according to International Red Cross figures.

"To end this carnage, the United States will seek a worldwide ban as soon as possible to end the use of all anti-personnel land mines," Clinton said during a White House news briefing.

Clinton announced four unilateral actions. First, he directed the U.S. military immediately stop using "dumb" anti-personnel land mines -- those that remain active until detonated or cleared. The only exception is on the Korean Peninsula, where he judged the risk to U.S. interests was too great. U.S. forces will rid the arsenal of more than 4 million anti-personnel mines by 1999.

Second, the United States reserves the right to use "smart" anti-personnel mines, which self-destruct, because these mines will save the lives of U.S. service members in some battlefield situations.

Third, the president directed DoD to examine tactical alternatives to mines. Finally, he directed DoD to expand efforts to develop better mine-detection and mine-clearing technology.

U.S. officials estimate there are between 85 million and 110 million uncleared mines in 64 countries right now. These mines cause untold suffering to civilians in those areas.

The United States has a leadership role to play in clearing these mines and controlling the use of anti-personnel mines, said Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"You cannot be callous to the tragedy that is ongoing worldwide. The tragedy that is brought about by nations and warring factions who totally irresponsibly use anti-personnel mines," he said.

The chairman said the United States must deal responsibly with the humanitarian crisis, but also remember mines serve a purpose to protect American service members. "The answer is not to go overboard one way but to have a balanced view and a balanced approach," he said. "[The world] must deal with mines in such a way that you help bring an end to this tragedy while you still provide prudent protection for the force."

The chairman strongly endorses the presidents anti-personnel mine policies calling them a "prudent and responsible course that will lead to the elimination of all anti-personnel land mines, while continuing to protect American lives."

Defense Secretary William J. Perry endorsed the president's policy and said he looks forward to the day when mines will not be needed in Korea.

"The North Koreans have more than a million infantry troops massed just north of the demilitarized zone," Perry said. U.S. war contingency plans call for stopping an invasion before it reaches Seoul -- South Korea's capital, about 30 miles from the DMZ. The war plan requires the use of about a million mines, Perry said.

"If we remove those anti-personnel land mines, it is likely North Korea could overrun Seoul before we could turn the invasion around," he said. "Overrunning Seoul would entail the loss of tens of thousands of soldiers and perhaps hundreds of thousands of civilians."

The United States has led efforts to eliminate anti-personnel mines. Since 1992, the United States has not exported anti-personnel mines. Further the United States has proposed amending the Convention on Conventional Weapons treaty to include internal conflicts, restrict the use of long-lived anti-personnel mines and require all mines be detectable.

"Certainly, there are lots of mines out there," Shalikashvili said. "There are mines that are very destructive in that once they are implanted, they stay there for God knows how long. Some of them are made of plastic, so they are not detectable by normal mine detectors. They are probably the ones that cause the most damage."

The United States has been investing in self-destructing mines for some years, Shalikashvili said. Service members set a timer, and the mines explode after that period of time. "So the mine will not be just lying around," he said. "We need to treat those mines differently. But it is a complex issue and we must find a responsible answer to this dilemma."

The U.S. military has been involved in demining operations in countries around the world. U.S. forces have trained specialists in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Honduras, Costa Rica, Angola, Rwanda, Namibia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Mozambique. Since 1994, the United States has spent $54 million on demining.

It costs $150 to $1,000 to clear one land mine.

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