The Biden administration on Tuesday said it was reversing a Trump-era policy and joining the majority of countries around the world in committing to limit the use of anti-personnel landmines.
The new policy prohibits the use of the landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula and bans the development, production and acquisition of the weapons.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement the change in policy reflects President Joe Biden’s belief that anti-personnel landmines “have disproportionate impact on civilians, including children, long after fighting has stopped.”
The new policy moves the United States closer to being in compliance with the Ottawa Convention, also known as the “Mine Ban Treaty.” More than 160 countries have signed on to the treaty but the United States – along with China, India, Pakistan and Russia – has not.
Biden is directing the Department of Defense to pursue alternatives to the landmines “that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention, while ensuring our continued ability to respond to global contingencies,” Watson said.
The White House said the new policy stands in contrast to the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine.
Principal deputy assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs Stanley Brown told reporters on Tuesday there is “compelling evidence that Russian forces are using explosive munitions, including landlines … causing extensive harm to civilians and damage to vital civilian infrastructure there.”
Brown said the policy directs the US to move to destroy all anti-personnel landmine stockpiles that are not required for the defense of South Korea, and noted there are approximately 3 million landmines in the US stockpile.
He said the Claymore mines that have been transferred by the US to Ukraine are compliant with the Ottawa Convention because they are manually detonated.
The White House said since 1993 the United States has invested more than $4.2 billion in conventional weapons destruction programs.
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump rescinded restrictions on the US military’s ability to use landmines that had been put in place under the Obama administration. The Trump policy gave the authority to use landmines in combat to the commanders of the US military’s combatant commands, usually a four-star general or admiral.