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U.S. to Join Canadian-led Land Mine Talks

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 1997 – The United States will join Canadian-led talks aimed at banning anti-personnel land mines worldwide, White House officials announced Aug. 18.

More than 100 nations have indicated support for a Canadian proposal calling for nations to stop using land mines. Known as the "Ottawa Process," talks are scheduled to begin Sept. 1 in Oslo, Norway. A treaty is expected to be signed in Ottawa in December.

"The United States will work with other participating nations to secure an agreement that achieves our humanitarian goals while protecting our national security interests," according to a White House statement released at Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where President Clinton was vacationing.

A U.S. call for a global ban under discussion at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has made little progress, administration officials said. At the same time, however, support for the Ottawa process has grown significantly.

While the United States supports the Canadian proposal, U.S. officials plan to propose changes to the draft treaty. They want to incorporate an exception to the ban to allow U.S. and allied forces to continue using anti-personnel land mines on the Korean Peninsula. The Joint Chiefs of Staff wants to preserve the right to use anti-personnel mines until alternatives become available or the risk of aggression has been removed.

"Given the security situation there and the crucial role that land mines play in our defense plans, it is fundamental that any treaty make this exception," a DoD spokesman said. Military leaders say without anti-personnel mines to block and delay North Korean infantry forces in the event of war, U.S. and allied forces would take significantly higher casualties and any conflict would last longer.

U.S. officials also will propose limiting the ban to anti-personnel land mines. They want to continue using anti-tank and anti-vehicular land mine packages that may contain an anti-personnel subcomponent. These mines, which self-destruct in a set period of time, are used for blocking and controlling opposing forces, a DoD spokesman said.

Along with participating in the Ottawa Process, the United States will continue trying to establish step-by-step negotiations toward a global ban in the Conference on Disarmament. Conference members include most major anti-personnel mine producers and exporters, the White House statement noted.

White House officials also are seeking early Senate action on a land mine protocol. "This protocol will significantly strengthen the restrictions on land mine use and if adhered to, will save many lives as we work toward a universal ban," according to the statement.

DoD has been eliminating non-self-destructing land mines from its stockpiles since 1994, when Clinton announced the United States would strive to eventually eliminate their use. About 1.5 million mines have been destroyed to date, DoD officials said. At present, mines are being removed from Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. Plans call for all non-self-destructing anti-personnel mines to be removed by the end of 1999.

The U.S. military is also helping nations around the world remove leftover mines. Since 1993, the United States has spent more than $153 million on this effort, more than any other nation, officials said. Currently, DoD representatives are helping 12 nations train local technicians and set up mine-clearing operations.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA deminer slowly makes his way through an active minefield in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The men clearing this minefield have been trained by the U.S. State Department funded Deminining Coordination Center. Centers have been set up in several locations in the former Yugoslavia in hopes of clearing mines so that citizens can use the land. Senior Airman Johnathan D. Jensen, 1st Combat Camera Squadron.  
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