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Obama administration stops short in agreeing to destroy US supply of landmines

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The United States may have vowed to stop replenishing its stockpile of landmines by discontinuing to produce and/or buy them when they “expire,” during last weeks Mine Ban Treaty conference in Mozambique, the Obama administration stopped short of signing an international treaty requiring all countries to destroy their inventory. The move seems odd since the US was the first country to call for the “eventual elimination of all anti-personnel land mines” back in 1994. Since then 161 countries have signed the treaty. Obama, however, is not the only president to decline putting his pen to the paper. George W. Bush announced that he would not sign the treaty in 2004. The US is said to have more than 9 million self-destruct of the mines in its reserves.

“It makes no sense for the United States to acknowledge that the weapons should be banned because of the humanitarian harm they cause, while retaining the opposition to use them for years to come,” stated Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. Goose is also chairman of a coalition of more than 400 non-governmental organizations known collectively as the United States Campaign to Ban Landmines.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that landmines are an important military defense tool, particularly in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. In fact, the administration’s decision not to sign the treaty came just a few months after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, told a congressional panel that he believed that “anti-personnel land mines were an important tool in our country’s arsenal.” His statement was later cited by Congressman Howard McKeon (R-CA) chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in accusing the President of “putting politics ahead of the military, and making an end run around Congress.”