MR PRICE: Thank you very much and good morning everyone, and thank you for joining this call. We are pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the changes we have announced today in U.S. anti-personnel mine policy. Recall, this call is on the record, but is under embargo until the end of the call.
We have two speakers this morning. You will first hear from Bonnie Jenkins, Dr. Bonnie Jenkins. She is our Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security. Stan Brown is on the line with us. He is the Chief Deputy Assistant Secretary in our Bureau of Political and Military Affairs.
So I will hand him over to Undersecretary Jenkins without further ado to expel us. Please go ahead.
SECRETARY JENKINS: Great. Thank you, Ned.
Reducing the use of landmines around the world was a commitment made by President Biden as a candidate, and I am extremely pleased to highlight today’s White House announcement of a new antipersonnel mine policy that achieves exactly what President Biden promised.
The new U.S. policy on antipersonnel landmines focuses on people, communities, and individuals around the world seeking peace and security. This is the principle of our humanitarian demining activities. Our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, which I published in April, is a great reminder of the global leadership of the United States and I strongly encourage you to read it if you have not already done so.
I know you have a lot of questions about today’s White House announcement, so I will ask my colleague Stan Brown, Deputy Assistant Secretary-General at the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, to talk more about it.
MR. BROWN: Thank you, Undersecretary Jenkins. I just want to take a moment to reiterate Undersecretary Jenkins’ comments and reiterate the importance of today’s announcement, which follows President Biden’s commitment to reducing the use of landmines around the world.
Following a comprehensive policy review, the administration announced a new U.S. policy to limit the use of antipersonnel landmines and align U.S. policy and practice with key provisions of the Ottawa Convention for all activities outside the Korean Peninsula context.
As a result of this decision, the United States will not develop, manufacture or purchase antipersonnel landmines, or export or transfer antipersonnel landmines, except as required for mine destruction or clearance activities and for the purpose of destruction. Will not use anti-personnel landmines outside the Korean Peninsula, will not assist, encourage or encourage anyone outside the Korean Peninsula to engage in activities prohibited by the Ottawa Convention, and undertake to destroy anti-personnel landmines and their supplies not necessary to defend the Korean Peninsula .
We will continue to strive for material and operational solutions that are consistent with and ultimately enable the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention, while at the same time ensuring our ability to meet our Alliance commitments.
Today’s actions of the administration are in stark contrast to Russia‘s actions in Ukraine, where there is convincing evidence that Russian forces use explosive munitions, including landmines, irresponsibly, causing great damage to civilians and vital civilian infrastructure there.
Finally, it is in – here in – the United States that is proud to lead the world in the destruction of conventional weapons. We have invested more than 4.2 billion in more than 100 countries since 1993 to promote international peace and security through our conventional weapons destruction programs. We will continue this important work and remain committed to a continuous partnership to address the humanitarian effects of antipersonnel mines.
With that only as an introductory word, I will be happy to answer all the questions from the group.
MR PRICE: Thank you very much. Operator, if you don’t mind repeating the instructions for asking questions.
OPERATOR: And again, for any questions or comments, you can line up by pressing 1, then 0. That’s 1, then 0 for all questions or comments.
MR PRICE: Great. We’ll start with the Shaun Tandon line, please.
OPERATOR: One moment. And your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks for doing this. Nice to hear from you, Bonnie and Stan, and Ned, of course.
May I ask you about – of course, you mentioned Russia. China, as far as I know, is not part of the Ottawa Agreement either. How much do you expect to pressure other countries to give up their mines as well? Will it become more of a diplomatic priority? And can I also ask you a little more about the Korean Peninsula and the reason for this continued exception, because it was under the Obama administration? Is it because of the real threat from North Korea, the threat there? Is that why RK really has control over the landmines there? Can you explain the reasons for continuing this exception? Thank you.
MR. BROWN: All right. So, first of all, to address the exception of Korea, it is because of our specific defense responsibilities there and our defense partnership. First of all, the United States does not maintain any minefields in Korea or at the DMZ. All are owned by the Republic of Korea. We have a responsibility to defend South Korea. With the requirements of the Ottawa Convention, where we cannot help, encourage or induce anyone to use landmines, we cannot meet our contractual obligations there because of these defense requirements. So in that regard, we are basically going back to the Obama administration’s policy to make sure we can meet our demands with Korea in that regard.
In – as far as the requirements of the Convention are concerned, we are basically in line with – it is basically in line with Article 1 of the Ottawa Convention and the principles set out in the fact sheets and the types of debates we have had here. We will meet these requirements as – everywhere in the world except on the Korean Peninsula.
MR. PRICE: Let’s go to the Jennifer Hansler line.
OPERATOR: One moment. And your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. I just want to be clear about whether today’s action brings us back completely to the Obama-era landmine policy, and is it directing the Department of Defense to destroy landmines in its possession? You also mentioned Russia. What was the impetus for the war in Ukraine to finally make this Trump-era policy change? Thank you.
MR. BROWN: So part of it – so as the policy is set up, we’re basically not going to develop, produce or buy antipersonnel mines; we will not export or transfer antipersonnel landmines; we will not use them outside the Korean Peninsula. We would – part of the policy is also to undertake to destroy all anti-personnel supplies that are not needed to defend Korea, the Republic of Korea. Again, we will not help, encourage or encourage anyone outside the context of the Korean Peninsula to engage in any activity that would be prohibited by the Convention.
In this regard – sorry, can you repeat the second part of that question?
MR. PRICE: I believe it was there – it would require the destruction of any anti-personnel landmines.
MR. BROWN: That’s right, and we said that politics is committed to destroying all anti-personnel landmines in stockpiles that are not needed to defend the Republic of Korea.
MR. PRICE: We’ll go to Missy Ryan’s line, please.
OPERATOR: And your line is open.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you. Thank you so much for doing this. And I just wanted to get an idea from the reporting officials – can you give us an idea of how far the United States is in developing alternative weapons that could be used on the Korean Peninsula along the DMZ so the United States can accede to the Ottawa Convention? I have not been able to understand whether these technologies are in development at all, whether they are close to application possibilities or something similar. Any context on this would be helpful. Thank you.
MR. BROWN: I can tell you that this is being worked on, but I would have to postpone you to the Department of Defense for the specific purchasing and operational capabilities of future devices.
Let us return to the last question, because the Ukrainian war was the impetus for the decision. The decision was under reconsideration – from the Biden administration in January 2021. We have just reached a conclusion, and the President was able to publish that announcement today.
MR PRICE: Chris Megerian, Associated Press.
QUESTION: Hi everyone. So, a question for clarification about the potential destruction of mines that are currently in American stockpiles. Number one, how many landmines does the US have in its stockpile? Under two, are they all considered necessary to defend the Korean Peninsula? Aren’t we planning to destroy any of that?
MR. BROWN: The estimate of landmines in stock is approximately three million. In this regard, we – I would leave to the DOD what would be their operational requirements for what would be needed to defend Korea. Again, the policy states that they are basically trying to undertake the destruction of all anti-personnel landmines that are not needed to defend the Republic of Korea.
QUESTION: Hi. Also just a point of clarification. Can you tell when the US last used anti-personnel landmines?
MR BROWN: The United States last used antipersonnel mines in 1991 during the Gulf War. There was a single incident in which one munition was used in the 2002 time frame in Afghanistan. But otherwise, the United States has not used landmines in – anti-personnel landmines in any significant way since 1991.
MR PRICE: We have time for a few final questions. Anton La Guardia.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Can you hear me
MR PRICE: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you just clarify whether Ukraine uses landmines and how the policy of not helping, leading other countries to use mines can be aligned with the policy of helping Ukraine to win the war?
MR. BROWN: Ukraine is – in fact a party to the Ottawa Convention and cannot use landmines that are not – they themselves do not respect the convention. So, Ukraine itself does not use landmines, and we have not delivered mines to Ukraine that are not in accordance with the Ottawa Convention.
MR PRICE: We will go to the Hye Jun Seo line with Radio Free Asia.
QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?
MR PRICE: Yes. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you for answering my question. Only – a sequel on the Korean Peninsula. Were there any updated data on the number of mines within the country? And how worried is the DOS about possible incidents and casualties on the Korean Peninsula due to the large minefield? Thank you.
MR. BROWN: The United States does not have  any minefields in the Republic of Korea, so I would have to postpone you to the Government of the Republic of Korea to get any figures on the number of mines and minefield incidents there.
MR. PRICE: And we will take the last question from Oskar Gorzynski, the Polish news agency.
QUESTION: Hi. I was – I wanted to clarify something because the US – sorry, as far as I remember – transferred some landmines to Ukraine, Claymore mines. How is it – how is it in line with the Ottawa Convention? Can you explain that?
MR. BROWN: Yes. – Basically, an anti-personnel landmine in Ottawa Convention policies is associated with landmines that explode in contact or the presence of an individual. Claymore mines transferred to Ukraine by the US government are detonated on orders from a person in the circle who can actually detonate them, which reduces the impact of landmines – this type of fixed telephony, which is Ottawa-compliant, has on the civilian population.
MR PRICE: Great. Well, that concludes this call. Just a reminder that this call was on the record. You heard Dr. Bonnie Jenkins, our Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, as well as Stan Brown, our Chief Assistant Secretary to the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs. This concludes the call and lifts the embargo. Thank you all for contacting me and many thanks to Dr. Jenkins and PDAS Brown.
Are landmines still used today?
Today, it is the only country that actively places landmines in Myanmar. Still, the casualties continue. In 2017, more than 7,000 people – 87 percent of them civilians – were killed or injured by landmines. Only 202 of these victims were in Myanmar.
Is the use of landmines a war crime? Placing minefields without marking and filming for later removal is considered a war crime under Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which is itself an annex to the Geneva Conventions. This may interest you : Celebrate the arts in Georgetown this Summer.
Do people still use landmines?
Since its founding more than a decade ago, it has led to a virtual halt to global production of antipersonnel mines and a drastic reduction in their placement. More than 40 million stored mines were destroyed and aid was provided to survivors and the population living in the affected areas.
How many landmines are in America?
According to the report, the U.S. had stockpiles of 3 million landmines out of a total of about 45 million stored worldwide. Russia had the largest stockpile with a significant difference, with 26.5 million mines.
Do land mines expire?
Mines are generally buried 6 inches (15 inches) below the surface or simply laid above the ground. Buried landmines can remain active for more than 50 years.