Bush Team Shies From Clinton Landmine Policy

In its ongoing review of U.S. landmine policy, the Bush administration appears to be distancing itself from then-President Bill Clinton’s statement that by 2006 the United States might sign the Ottawa Convention, a treaty banning anti-personnel landmines (APLs).

In a July letter to Representative James McGovern (D-MA), Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Paul Kelly wrote that in its review, due to be completed later this year, the administration had to “examine the need for landmines on the modern battlefields of the future.” Kelly contended that “the United States bears unique security burdens and cannot undercut the effectiveness of [its] military on the way to that future.”

Kelly pointed out that the United States is already a state-party to the amended mines protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which he described as “equally important” as the Ottawa Convention.

The Ottawa Convention proscribes the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of APLs, whereas the CCW protocol outlaws APLs that are not detectable but permits the use of mines if deployed in certain ways, such as within perimeter-marked areas. Kelly wrote that the United States believes the CCW protocol provides the “most appropriate and responsible avenue” for balancing the need to protect U.S. combat troops with the obligation to minimize civilian risks.

In 1997, the United States opted against signing the Ottawa Convention after other countries rejected U.S. proposals that would have allowed the Pentagon to continue deploying APLs on the Korean Peninsula and to retain specific types of anti-tank mines. The Clinton administration later said Washington would join the treaty by 2006 if the United States succeeded in “identifying and fielding suitable alternatives” for its APLs and mixed anti-tank mines by that time.

In his letter, Kelly noted that since 1993 the United States has provided more than $500 million toward supplying other countries with de-mining training and equipment and educating people about APL dangers. Washington will “aspire to continued leadership…to address the humanitarian problem posed by landmines,” Kelly wrote, “but we will do so in a way that assures our national security.”