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U.S. Will Not Sign Land Mine Ban

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 1997 – Saying his responsibility for the security and safety of American service members is paramount, President Clinton announced Sept. 17 the United States will not sign the Oslo treaty banning anti-personnel land mines.

"As commander in chief, I will not send our soldiers to defend the freedom of our people and the freedom of others without doing everything we can to make them as secure as possible," Clinton said during a White House news conference.

The United States asked for two concessions in the land mine treaty. First, U.S. negotiators asked for a nine-year transition period to phase out anti-personnel land mines. Second, the United States wanted an exception made for the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean Peninsula.

Clinton said the anti-personnel mines along the DMZ are a key part of the U.N. defense against the 1.5 million-man North Korean army. He pointed out the mines are deployed where they are no danger to civilians and do not create the problem the treaty is meant to solve in the rest of the world.

He said the United States already does much to eliminate deaths and injuries from land mines, which some experts peg at around 25,000 per year. In 1996, he banned U.S. "dumb" anti-personnel mines -- those that do not deactivate after a set period of time. "In the months since I ordered that ban, the United States has destroyed 1.5 million of these land mines," he said. "By 1999, we will have destroyed all the rest of our stockpiles -- another 1.5 million."

He said DoD has led the world in removing existing land mine menaces. Since 1993, the United States has spent $153 million removing land mines from 15 nations. "These efforts are paying off," he said. "In the areas of Cambodia where we've been active, the death rates from land mines has dropped by half. In Namibia, the casualty rate has fallen by 90 percent."

These efforts have cost lives, the president said. The C-141 Starlifter that apparently collided with a German aircraft over the South Atlantic over the weekend had just ferried a special forces demining unit to Namibia.

Clinton said even though the United States will not sign the Oslo treaty, it will continue efforts to ban anti-personnel mines. He has directed DoD to develop alternatives to the weapons so by 2003 the United States can end use of smart, self-destructing mines. He wants these alternatives in place in Korea by 2006, the time period U.S. negotiators asked for during talks in Norway. "In short, this program will eliminate all anti-personnel land mines from America's arsenal," he said.

Clinton also appointed retired Air Force Gen. David Jones, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a personal adviser to ensure the job gets done. "[Jones] has demonstrated a concern for the safety of our troops second to none, and in recent years, he's been a powerful, eloquent voice for banning land mines," Clinton said.

Finally, the United States will increase funding by 25 percent for worldwide demining efforts. In fiscal 1998, the United States plans to spend $68 million on these efforts.

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