President Biden on Tuesday banned the use of anti-personnel landmines by the U.S. in most war zones across the globe in a return to Obama-era restrictions that had been rescinded under President Trump.
Under the new policy, the U.S. military will no longer use anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula, and will not produce, acquire or export the weapons except in circumstances related to mine detection, destruction and removal.
Mr. Biden also directed the Pentagon to destroy its stockpiles of anti-personnel mines not required for the defense of South Korea on the divided Korean peninsula.
The White House said the policy reflects “the president’s belief that these weapons have disproportionate impacts on civilians, including children, long after fighting has stopped.”
“The world has once again witnessed the devastating impact that anti-personnel landmines can have in the context of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine, where Russian forces’ use of these and other munitions have caused extensive harm to civilians and civilian objects,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “President Biden is committed to continuing the United States’ role as the world’s leader in mitigating the harmful consequences of anti-personnel landmines worldwide.”
President Trump lifted restrictions on the U.S.’ deployment of anti-personnel landmines in early 2020, which were put in place under the Obama administration in 2014. Mr. Trump’s policy authorized the use of the weapon in “exceptional circumstances.”
Mr. Trump said the policy put U.S. troops “at a severe disadvantage.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at the time of the reversal that landmines were “an important tool that our forces need to have available in order to ensure mission success and in order to reduce risk to forces,” while stating that the U.S. should ensure that it accounts for the safety to civilians post-conflict.
The new policy more closely aligns with the Ottawa Convention, a U.N. treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines.
The U.S. has not signed the Ottawa Convention, though the White House said Tuesday that the U.S. “will undertake diligent efforts to pursue materiel and operational solutions to assist in becoming compliant with and ultimately acceding to” the treaty, while at the same time ensuring the Pentagon’s ability to “respond to contingencies and meet our alliance commitments.”
The U.S. is, however, the largest financial supporter of steps to mitigate post-conflict harm from landmines, according to the White House.
Since 1993 the U.S. has provided $4.2 billion in aid to more than 100 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs, which the administration says has helped 17 countries “become free from the danger of landmines.”
According to a 2021 report by the Geneva-based International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 7,073 people were killed or injured by landmines and explosive remnants of war across 54 countries. Of those casualties, 80% were civilians.