Washington (AFP) -
The White House on Tuesday announced a return to an almost total ban on the use and production of anti-personnel landmines, leaving an exception for the military facing off against Pyongyang on the Korean peninsula.
A statement said the United States would align policy to 'the international treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.'
This restores US policy to the position prior to former president Donald Trump's 2020 decision to authorize landmine use and production.
From now, the US military will 'not develop, produce, or acquire' anti-personnel landmines. It also will not export such weapons, except for their destruction or other non-battlefield usage, the statement says.
The changes reflect President Joe Biden's 'belief that these weapons have disproportionate impact on civilians, including children, long after fighting has stopped, and that we need to curtail the use of (anti-personnel mines) worldwide,' the White House said.
As was the case prior to Trump's pro-landmines policy shift, a major exception remains in place for the US force based in South Korea, defending a heavily mined and fortified border with North Korea.
'The unique circumstances on the Korean peninsula and the US commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea preclude the United States from changing anti-personnel landmine policy on the Korean peninsula at this time,' the White House said.
'As the United States commits to continuing our diligent efforts to pursue material and operational alternatives to (anti-personnel mines), the security of our ally the Republic of Korea will continue to be a paramount concern.'
Trump's decision on landmines was justified by the Pentagon as allowing the military to use 'a vital tool in conventional warfare' which could be used in a way to help reduce 'the risk of unintended harm to non-combatants.'
However, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a global network of advocacy groups, says the weapons 'are indiscriminate' and continue to kill innocent people even long after conflicts end.
'Lying in wait for their victims, they don't recognize ceasefires,' the group's website says. 'They instill fear in communities and are a lethal barrier to development.'