In a move met with cautious praise, the United States announced Friday that it would not produce or add to its stockpile of antipersonnel landmines (APL), and would work towards becoming party to a treaty described as "the only solution to eliminate the suffering" the weapons cause.
The U.S. "will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines (APL) in the future, including to replace existing stockpiles as they expire," reads a statement from National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden, adding that the country is "diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention," referring to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
A U.S. delegation made the announcement in Maputo, Mozambique at a conference that convenes parties to the treaty. The U.S. attended as an observer.
The U.S. thus far has failed to join 161 nations that are party to the mine ban treaty.
Though the last known use of landmines by the U.S. was in 1991 in Iraq and Kuwait, according to the Landmine Monitor Report, the U.S. still maintains the right to use self-destructing, self-deactivating antipersonnel mines anywhere. It is believed to hold 9 million self-destructing APLs in its stockpikle.
"With this announcement, the U.S. has changed its mine ban stance and has laid the foundation for accession to the treaty," said Steve Goose, International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) Head of Delegation and arms director at Human Rights Watch. "The message to the international community is clear, the Mine Ban Treaty is the only solution to eliminate the suffering caused by landmines," he said.
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Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has pressed for years for the U.S. to ban landmines, also welcomed the announcement, calling it "incremental" but "significant."
Yet, with no target date or commitment to accede to the treaty, and potential use by the U.S. of landmines within its stockpiles, the ICBL and US Campaign to Ban Landmines stress that the announcement falls short.
"It makes no sense for the U.S. to acknowledge the weapons should be banned because of the humanitarian harm they cause while retaining the option to use them for years to come," Goose stated.
"An obvious next step is for the Pentagon to destroy its remaining stockpile of mines, which do not belong in the arsenal of civilized nations," Sen. Leahy said.
The anti-landmine coalition is calling on the U.S. to ban the use of APLs, become party to the treaty and begin to eliminate its stockpiles.