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News Release


IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 494-97
September 17, 1997

STATEMENT BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM S. COHEN

The initiatives announced by President Clinton today expand and accelerate America's worldwide effort to help end the humanitarian tragedy caused by anti-personnel landmines (APL) while protecting U.S. forces around the globe. Gen. John Shalikashvili and the Joint Chiefs of Staff join me in supporting these initiatives, under which the Department of Defense will expand its already extensive international humanitarian demining assistance program and accelerate programs to develop and field alternatives to anti-personnel landmines.

While other nations have talked about ending the threat to civilians from landmines, no country has moved as decisively as the United States to achieve this objective. We have unilaterally destroyed 1.5 million landmines. We have removed all emplaced U.S. landmines around the world save Guatanamo Bay, from which they will be removed by 1999. We have unilaterally banned all APL exports from the United States and have changed military doctrine, plans and tactics to enable us to move away from reliance on APL.

These actions follow a two-decade long U.S. effort to move from long-lived non-self-destructing APL, which threaten both civilians and U.S. soldiers, to short-lived APL that self-destruct after only a few hours or days. These self-destruct APL pose no danger to civilians who cross a field after the battle is over or indeed to U.S. forces who drop mines on and then overrun an enemy position during the course of a battle.

In a continued demonstration of international leadership, with today's announcement we are establishing a policy to end by 2003 the use of all pure APL systems, even these safe self-destructing APL, except in Korea for which we are establishing the objective of fielding alternatives by 2006.

The U.S. has devoted defense personnel, resources and facilities in support of the humanitarian removal of landmines since the 1980s. No other country in the world has done as much to remove these deadly mines from war-torn countries. The U.S. program trains military people in other countries, equips them and establishes programs they can execute on their own.


  • Over the last five years, the U.S. Government has spent $153 million on such efforts. Our
  • current budget calls for spending $68 million in 1998 almost as much as the rest of the world combined and to implement the initiatives being announced today we will seek to reprogram additional millions.

Roughly one-quarter of the active deminers in the world were trained and equipped by the United States. The results have been dramatic:

  • In Cambodia where the United States has been assisting, the death rate is half what it was three years ago.
  • In Namibia, the casualty rate dropped by 90 percent.
  • In Angola, 268,600 mines and unexploded ordnance have been cleared. One hundred thousand Angolans have been resettled on the cleared land.

Mine clearing technologies developed through the U.S. Defense Department program are already being produced and adapted for practical application in Bosnia, Cambodia, Laos, Namibia and Rwanda.

The DOD demining assistance program currently includes 15 countries and goes on nearly every day. The U.S. C-141 missing off the coast of Africa had just taken a team of experts and a load of U.S. mine clearing equipment to Namibia.

In accordance with the President’s new initiatives, we are taking additional actions:

  • We are establishing a policy to no longer deploy APL by 2003, except in Korea for which we are establishing the objective of fielding alternatives by 2006. We will pursue an aggressive R&D effort to enable us to achieve these objectives. We will continue to deploy anti-tank mine systems that include anti-handling devices--or submunitions--that are designed to protect the anti-tank mines. Deployed around the anti-tank mines, these submunitions are essential to the effectiveness of the anti-tank minefield because they prevent rapid breaching or removal by enemy footsoldiers.
  • We will complete our effort to remove by 1999 all emplaced APLs at Guatanamo Bay, the last location where emplaced weapons remain. We will continue our APL destruction effort, which will result in the destruction of 3.3 million mines by 1999.
  • We are expanding our already extensive demining program:
  • increase from 15 to 21 the number of countries in which U.S. forces train deminers;
  • open demining program at U.S. Army Engineer School to foreign deminers, including those from foreign governments, NGOs and international organizations;
  • seek to remove legal impediments to reservists participating in demining programs (reservists make up some 90% of Special Operations Civil Affairs/PSYOPS personnel, who are key to mine awareness and demining training support);

  • expand our R&D and other efforts to improve techniques and procedures for humanitarian demining.

I will soon be asking Congress to reprogram additional funds to accelerate DOD programs to achieve these objectives.

A year ago in May, President Clinton issued a call for a comprehensive global ban on antipersonnel landmines so that "the children of the world can walk without fear on the Earth beneath them." The United States has been leading the world in this endeavor, and the initiatives we are announcing today will take us much closer to reaching this vital objective.

We urge all other countries to join with us in this endeavor. We view the discussions in Oslo as a sign of good faith by many other countries to cease being part of the problem and to join us in being part of the solution. We regret that the document produced in Oslo was not one we could sign because it failed to address U.S. and U.N. special needs in Korea and would prohibit our anti-tank mines, even while permitting other countries to retain theirs. But we remain committed to working with all countries to achieve our common objective as soon as possible.

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