Cohen, Shelton Ask Relief From Land Mine Ban
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 11, 1998 The Clinton administration is asking Congress for relief from a moratorium on using anti-personnel land mines, saying the halt would needlessly endanger U.S. service members.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said May 5 the moratorium will "damage the ability of the military to carry out operations and to protect troops." Bacon said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asked for relief in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The moratorium is due to start Feb. 12, 1999.
"[President Clinton] promised that we would stop using anti-personnel land mines by 2003 in everywhere but Korea, and in 2006 in Korea," Bacon said. The moratorium starting in 1999 does not give DoD sufficient time to develop alternatives to land mines, he said.
"The moratorium would dramatically limit our ability to fight and win battles in places such as Korea," Bacon said. For example, if the moratorium takes effect, U.S. forces could not use anti-personnel land mines between the demilitarized zone and Seoul, he said.
The only alternative to land mines now is to use greater force. "If we were to do that in Korea, we would have to deploy 17,000 additional troops, 350 additional tanks, 410 additional Bradley fighting vehicles, 24 additional helicopters and 144 other aircraft," Bacon said. "So it would mean a very substantial increase in our forces in a very short period of time, because we assume that in Korea our warning would be very, very short."
Across the board, he said, U.S. military planners have concluded that allowing the moratorium to take place is an unacceptable risk. Other factors defense officials considered before asking for relief were the shrunken size and the thin, global spread of U.S. military forces, and the current high operational tempo of units deploying to areas like the Persian Gulf and Bosnia.
Bacon said the military is actively pursuing land-mine alternatives such as barrier devices, monitoring devices and artillery. This research, however, is based on DoD fielding substitutes starting in 2003, he said.