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 talk about the changes we have announced today to US anti-personnel policy on mining. As a reminder, this call is recorded, but it is barred until the end of the call.
We have two speakers with us this morning. You will first hear from Bonnie Jenkins, Dr. Bonnie Jenkins. She is our Under Secretary of Arms Control and International Security. We also have Stan Brown on the line with us. He is the Chief Vichelpa Secretary in our Office of Political and Military Affairs.
So without further ado, I will hand it over to Undersecretary Jenkins to kick us. Please go ahead.
UNDER-SECRETARY JENKINS: Great. Thanks, Ned.
Reducing the use of landmines worldwide has been a commitment made by President Biden as a candidate, and I am very pleased to highlight today the White House’s announcement of a new anti-personnel mine policy that achieves exactly what President Biden promised.
The new US policy on anti-personnel terms is focused on people, communities and individuals around the world seeking peace and security. It is a principle of our humanitarian activities. Our annual report, Walking the Earth in Security, which I launched in April, is a great reminder of the global leadership of the United States, and I strongly encourage you to read it if you haven’t already.
I know you have a lot of questions about today’s White House announcement, so I’m going to ask my colleague Stan Brown, the Under-Secretary-General of the Office of Political-Military Affairs, to talk more about it.
MR BROWN: Thank you, Undersecretary Jenkins. I just want to take a moment to echo Secretary Jenkins’ comments and reiterate the importance of today’s announcement, which follows President Biden’s commitment to limit the use of landmines worldwide.
After conducting a comprehensive policy review, the administration announced a new U.S. policy to limit the use of anti-personnel landmines and align U.S. policy and practice with key provisions of the Ottawa Convention for all activities outside the context of the Korean Peninsula. .
As a result of the decision, the United States will not develop, produce or acquire antipersonnel landmines, export or transfer antipersonnel landmines except when necessary for mine destruction or removal activities and for the purpose of destruction. They will not use anti-personnel terms outside the Korean Peninsula, they will not help, encourage or encourage anyone outside the context of the Korean Peninsula to engage in activities that would be prohibited by the Ottawa Convention, and will undertake to destroy anti-personnel. landmines and their supplies not necessary for the defense of the Korean Peninsula.
We will continue to seek material and operational solutions that are consistent with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention, while at the same time ensuring our ability to fulfill our alliance commitments.
The administration’s actions today are in stark contrast to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where there is compelling evidence that Russian troops are using explosive devices, including landmines, in an irresponsible manner, causing extensive damage to civilians and damage to vital civilian infrastructure. there.
After all, only in – here – the United States 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 continuing partnerships to address the humanitarian impacts of anti-personnel landmines.
With that only as an open statement, I would gladly accept questions from the group.
MR PRICE: Thank you very much. Operator, if you don’t mind repeating the instructions to ask a question.
OPERATION: And again, for any questions or comments, you can align by pressing 1 and then 0. That’s 1 and then 0 for any questions or comments.
MR PRICE: Great. Let’s start with Shaun Tandon’s line, please.
OPERATION: One moment. And your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks for that. Nice to hear from you, Bonnie and Stan, and Ned of course.
May I ask you about – of course, you mentioned Russia. China, to my knowledge, is also not a party to the Ottawa Treaty. How much do you expect to pressure other countries to give up on their terms as well? Will this become a more diplomatic priority? And could I also ask you a little more about the Korean Peninsula and the reason for this lasting exception, as it was under the Obama administration? Is it because of the real threat from North Korea, the threats there? Is that also why the ROK really controls the landmines there? Could you explain the reasoning behind continuing that exception? Thank you.
MR BROWN: All right. So first, to address the Korean exception, that is because of our specific defense responsibilities there and our defense partnership. The – first, the United States does not keep any minefields in Korea or on the DMZ. They are all owned by the Republic of Korea. We have a responsibility to defend South Korea. With the requirements of the Ottawa Convention, where we cannot assist, encourage or encourage anyone to use landmines, we cannot fulfill the treaty obligations there because of those defense requirements. So in that regard, we’re basically going back to the Obama administration’s policies to make sure that we can meet our demands with Korea in that regard.
In – in relation to the requirements of the convention, we essentially agree with – essentially it is with Article 1 of the Ottawa Convention and the principles that have been presented in the fact sheets and sort of the points of discussion that we have. placed here. We will meet these requirements as – anywhere in the world except on the Korean Peninsula.
MR PRICE: We’ll go to Jennifer Hansler’s line.
OPERATION: One moment. And your line is open.
QUESTION: Hello. Thanks for that. I just want to be clear whether today’s action fully refers us to Obama’s policy of using landmines, and does this direct the Department of Defense to destroy landmines in its possession? And also, you mentioned Russia. How much impetus was the war in Ukraine to finally make this change to Trump-era politics? Thank you.
MR BROWN: So part of the – so because the policy is in place, basically we’re not going to develop or produce or acquire anti-personnel landmines; we will not export or transfer anti-personnel landmines; we will not use them outside the Korean Peninsula. We would do – part of the policy is also to undertake to destroy all anti-personnel supplies not necessary for the defense of Korea, Republic of Korea. And again, we would not help, encourage or induce anyone outside the context of the Korean Peninsula to engage in any activity that would be prohibited by the convention.
In that regard, excuse me, could you repeat the second part of that question?
MR. PRICE: I think it was there – it would require the destruction of some antipersonnel terms.
MR BROWN: Right, and we have said that the policy is indeed to destroy all anti-personnel landmines in supplies not necessary for the defense of the Republic of Korea.
MR. PRICE: We’re going to Missy Ryan’s line, please.
OPERATION: And your line is open.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you. Thank you so much for that. And I just wanted to get an idea of the officials reporting – can you give us an idea of how long the U.S. has been in developing alternative weapons that could be used in the Korean Peninsula under the DMZ to allow the U.S. access to the Ottawa Convention? I couldn’t figure out if those technologies were even evolving, if they were close to being able to be launched, or anything like that. Any context in this would be helpful. Thank you.
MR BROWN: I can tell you that it is being processed, but I should defer you to the Department of Defense for the specific acquisition and operational capabilities of future devices.
The – going back to the last question until the Ukrainian war being the impetus for the decision. The decision has been reviewed for – since the Biden administration in January 2021. We have just reached the conclusion, and the President was able to make the announcement today.
MR PRICE: Chris Megerian, Associated Press.
QUESTION: Hello, everyone. So an explanatory question about the possible destruction of landmines that are currently in the US warehouse. Number one, how many landmines does the United States have in its storage? Number two, do all of them deem it necessary to defend the Korean Peninsula? Don’t we plan to destroy any of those?
MR BROWN: The estimate of land mines in the stock is about three million. In that regard, we – I would postpone DOD for what their functional requirements would be for what would be needed to defend Korea. And again, the policy is essentially to seek to undertake the destruction of all anti-personnel landmines not necessary for the defense of the Republic of Korea.
QUESTION: Hello. Also just a point of explanation. Could you tell when the United States last used anti-personnel landmines?
MR BROWN: The United States last used anti-personnel landmines in 1991 during the Gulf War. There was one single incident of one ammunition being 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 some final questions. Anton La Guardia.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Can you hear me
MR PRICE: Yes, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you just explain whether Ukraine uses landmines and how the policy does not help, encouraging other countries to use landmines can be aligned with the policy of helping Ukraine win the war?
MR BROWN: Ukraine is – in fact a party to the Ottawa Convention, and cannot use landmines that are not – not in line with the convention itself. So in itself, Ukraine does not use landmines, and we have not provided landmines to Ukraine that do not comply with the Ottawa Convention.
MR. PRICE: We’re going to Hye Jun Seo’s line of Radio Free Asia.
QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?
MR. PRICE: Yes. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, thank you for accepting my question. Only – tracking on the Korean Peninsula. Has there been an update on the numbers of mines within the country? And how concerned is the DOS about the possible incidents and casualties on the Korean Peninsula due to the vast minefield? Thank you.
MR BROWN: The United States does not control  any of the minefields in the Republic of Korea, so I should postpone you to the Government of the Republic of Korea to get any numbers on the number of mines and the events in the minefields. there.
MR. PRICE: And we will take a final question from Oskar Gorzynski, the Polish Press Agency.
QUESTION: Hello. I was – I wanted to explain something because the United States – sorry, as I remember – moved some land mines to Ukraine, the Claymore mines. How is that – in line with the Ottawa Convention? Can you explain that?
MR BROWN: Yes. The – basically, the anti-personnel landmine in the policies of the Ottawa Convention refers to landmines that are exploited with the contact or presence of an individual. The Claymore mines that have been handed over by the US government to Ukraine are command-detonated with a person in the loop who can actually blow them up, which reduces the impact that landmines – that kind of fixed line that is Ottawa-compliant – have to civilian populations. .
MR. PRICE: Very well. Well, that concludes this call. Just a reminder that this call has been recorded. You have heard from Dr. Bonnie Jenkins, our undersecretary for arms control and international security, as well as Stan Brown, our chief assistant secretary in the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs. With that, the call is over and the embargo is lifted. Thank you, everyone, for the phone call, and a heartfelt thank you to Dr. Jenkins and PDAS Brown.
Are landmines still used today?
Today, the only country that actively lays landmines in the ground is Myanmar. However, casualties persist. In 2017, more than 7,000 people – 87 percent of them civilians – were killed or injured by terms. Only 202 of those victims were in Myanmar.
Do people still use landmines? Since its inception more than a decade ago, it has caused a virtual halt in global production of antipersonnel mines, and a drastic reduction in their deployment. More than 40 million stored mines were destroyed, and assistance was provided to survivors and populations living in the affected areas.
Is it a war crime to use landmines?
Placing minefields without marking and registering them for later removal is considered a war crime under Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Arms, which is itself an annex to the Geneva Conventions.
Are landmines a war crime?
Minefields may also have marked or unmarked safe routes to allow proper movement through them. Placing minefields without marking and registering them for later removal is considered a war crime under Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Arms, which is itself an annex to the Geneva Conventions.
Why did the US not sign the Mine Ban Treaty?
Although America supported the treaty’s development process, it did not sign it in 1997. The Clinton administration declined to accede to the Treaty under pressure from the Pentagon, which focused on the strategic importance of landmines along the Demilitarized Zone (or DMZ). between North and South Korea.
When was the Mine Ban Treaty signed? It is commonly referred to as the Ottawa Congress or the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty. The Congress was concluded by the Diplomatic Conference on the International Total Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Landmines in Oslo on 18 September 1997.
Did the US sign the Mine Ban Treaty?
Although it contributes more to international demining efforts than any other country, the United States has not yet signed the treaty, officially known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.
What countries did not sign the Ottawa Treaty?
For more information on the treaty, see “The Ottawa Convention at a Glance.” A number of major current and past producers and users of landmines, including the United States, China, India, Pakistan and Russia, have not signed the Treaty.