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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 10, November 1996

US statements on landmines

Statement to the First Committee

Text of Ambassador Albright's statement to the First Committee, 4 November 1996


"I am pleased at President Clinton's direction to introduce today, on behalf of my government and more than six dozen co-sponsors, a resolution calling for an international agreement to ban the use, stockpiling production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.

Our goal is to conclude as soon as possible an agreement that will remove this weapon from the arsenals of the world. Such an agreement would be a great gift to the future.

Increasingly, countries from the four points of the compass - north, south, east and west - are agreeing on a common direction.

Statements presented to the General Assembly this fall by foreign ministers from countries as diverse as Angola and Australia, the Philippines and Canada, Germany, Mexico and Mozambique all agree. We must work together to end the terror caused by anti-personnel landmines, and we must do so as rapidly and as vigorously as we can. ...

This level of agreement did not arise by accident.

We have been inspired by leaders of exceptional commitment and vision, such as Senator Patrick Leahy of the United States. ...

We have been educated by private voluntary organizations and by those within the UN system who work with the populations most endangered by anti-personnel landmines.

We have been helped by military leaders, including those of the United States, who have been willing to consider alternatives to their use of anti-personnel landmines in light of the suffering caused by others' misuse of these mines.

We have been encouraged by last month's successful conference in Ottawa, where a broad commitment to the elimination of anti-personnel landmines was affirmed.

Finally, we have been motivated by the victims; by the farmers who can no longer grow food on their land; the families who have lost loved ones; the peacekeepers who have been killed; and the children - the many thousands of innocent children - dependent now and for the rest of their lives on crutches, wagons, wheelchairs or artificial limbs.

Together, we have moved, in a short time, from tentative and largely unilateral steps to the proposal now for a global agreement to ban, once and for all, the use of anti-personnel landmines.

Let there be no doubt; the United States is fully committed to this goal. Two years ago, here, before the General Assembly, President Clinton called upon all nations to join in ridding the world of these weapons. This past May, the President specifically proposed a negotiation aimed at achieving that

objective. The President renewed his appeal for swift negotiation of a world-wide ban on anti-personnel landmines here, before the General Assembly, in September.

We recognize that some governments have security concerns with respect to their borders or demilitarized zones. The United States, too, has such a concern. But this should not prevent us from negotiating an agreement to end the use of anti-personnel landmines.

The urgency is clear.

Between now and the start of the new century, anti-personnel landmines will likely claim 100,000 more victims, most of them civilians, many of them children. ...

An estimated 110 million anti-personnel landmines, in 70 countries, now litter the earth. At the current rate, even if no more anti-personnel landmines are deployed, before the mines now in place are cleared, the new century will be over and so will the six centuries following that.

We are, in fact, going backwards. Last year, about 150,000 old anti-personnel landmines were cleared; about 2,000,000 new mines were put in place.

The problem with anti-personnel landmines is not - in the context of modern weapons - that they are exceptionally destructive. It is that they are so prone to misuse by the desperate, the financially hard-pressed, the poorly-trained and the cowardly. Unfortunately, these adjectives apply to many of the military and guerrilla forces that have fought in recent hot wars.

Anti-personnel landmines are tempting because they are cheap to buy and easy to lay. ...

The goal of the resolution offered today is an agreement to ban anti-personnel landmines. But it also calls upon States, in the interim, to reduce the carnage these weapons cause. It urges the voluntary adoption of moratoria, either partial or comprehensive, on the transfer, use, production or stockpiling of these mines. Many countries, including the United States, have taken such steps; we invite others to join us now.

The resolution also encourages all countries to become parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons and its newly-revised Protocol. The Protocol moves beyond current law governing mines to include internal conflicts, require that mines be detectable, and that those not deployed within a marked and mapped minefield be of a type that will de-activate rapidly or self-destruct.

Finally, we must accelerate ongoing mine clearance activities. And we must strive to close the technology gap, so that we may increase the speed, decrease the cost and cut dramatically the risk of removing anti-personnel landmines. ...

The problems created by the misuse of antipersonnel landmines can only be dealt with on a global basis. And experience tells us that this misuse cannot effectively be regulated or controlled; it must be stopped. Lesser measures can contribute, but if the scourge is to end, the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of anti-personnel landmines must end. ...

Let us move from the resolution today to international agreement tomorrow.

And by so doing, let us, for the benefit of future generations, heal the life-giving land that this generation has so grievously and pervasively scarred."

Source: United States Information Agency, 4 November.

Statement at Demining Conference

Speech by Thomas McNamara, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, to Conference entitled 'Innovative Techniques for Landmine Neutralization and Removal,' sponsored by Defense Week and White House Weekly, Washington, 2 December 1996


"A Ban on APLs [Anti-Personnel Landmines]

To halt the future proliferation of anti-personnel landmines, President Clinton recently repeated his call in the United Nations General Assembly to negotiate a global ban on anti-personnel landmines. This is one of the President's top arms-control priorities.

The United States has introduced, for the last three years, a UN General Assembly resolution calling for export moratoria on anti-personnel landmines and calling for the eventual elimination of APE. This year, we will introduce a resolution calling for states 'to pursue vigorously an effective, legally-binding international agreement to ban use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines with a view to completing the negotiation as soon as possible.'

President Clinton announced in May other unilateral actions to halt the spread of APE. Our Armed Forces have discontinued the use of so-called 'dumb' anti-personnel landmines, those which remain active until detonated or cleared. The only exceptions will be for those mines required to defend our American troops and our allies from aggression on the Korean Peninsula and those needed for training purposes,

and this only until the threat is ended or until alternatives to land mines become available. The rest of these mines, more than 4 million in all, will be removed from our arsenals and destroyed by 1999.

Until an international ban bakes effect, the United States reserves the right to use so-called 'smart mines,' or self-destructing mines, because there may be battlefield situations in which these will save the lives of our soldiers. As the President emphasized, these smart mines are not the hidden killers that have caused so much suffering around the world. They meet standards set by international agreement. They destroy themselves within days, and they pose virtually no threat to civilian life once a battle is over. Put under the comprehensive international ban we seek, use of even these smart anti-personnel landmines would be ended. The President is determined to end our reliance on these weapons completely. He has directed the Secretary of Defense to begin research and development of alternative technologies that will not pose new dangers to civilians.

Mines in the Ground

... We are committed to resolving this worldwide crisis, but we will need decades to accomplish this.

The estimated is around 100 million unexploded anti-personnel landmines scattered in approximately seventy countries around the world. ...

Most demining field technology now used in humanitarian demining dates from the 1950s: mostly metal detectors and hand probes. Although this technology is reliable, it makes demining very labor-intensive and slow, increasing the cost far beyond what a nation recovering from conflict can afford. For example, according to current estimates, if every cent of Cambodia's Gross National Domestic Product were immediately spent only on mine clearance and demining, it would still take at least five years to demine the whole country completely.

Demining technology must be designed, produced and fielded which will significantly reduce this investment and save lives. Some advances such as air-sniffing demining vehicles with trained dogs have been made more recently. We need more development of these cost-effective 'medium-tech' solutions. ...

International Meeting on Mine Clearance

In July of last year, the United States sponsored a 97-country conference in Geneva, the International Meeting on Mine Clearance, which catalogued global demining efforts of $84 million and raised over $20 million for the United Nations Trust Fund for Mine Clearance. ...

US Demining Efforts

... Since 1993 the US Government has spent over $110 million on mine awareness and demining training programs in fourteen countries with serious landmine problems, including, most recently, Bosnia. This includes refugee assistance programs which support mine awareness training and demining to facilitate return and resettlement. We have spent another $24 million in research and development of mine detection and demining technology. ...

The US Government Demining Program assists the host nation with development of all aspects of mine awareness and mine clearance operations, short of physically removing the mines ourselves, or actually entering live minefields. We take into account many local factors including institutional capacity to custom-design a program. For example, our demining program in three Central American countries (Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua) is administered through two regional organizations, the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Defense Board. ...

This year, we plan to provide approximately $7 million in direct humanitarian demining assistance in fourteen countries, including Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Laos, Mozambique, Namibia and Rwanda, as well as the ones I mentioned earlier. ...


... To support full implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, we are currently leading an international effort to begin clearing millions of landmines scattered throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Last June, President Clinton announced a new US initiative of up to $15 million to develop an indigenous demining capacity there. ...

Medium Technology

... The US has supported the use of a higher level of technology, what I will call 'Medium Tech,' to clear landmines from roads in Angola and Mozambique. Demining experts from several countries such as Israel and South Africa have developed a variety of devices such as special demining vehicles, trained dogs, and air-sampling devices to detect mines. Although mines detected in this process must still be removed by hand, this is a relatively fast method of certifying roadways as free of mines and helping a country move forward that much sooner. I urge all of you to consider how to expand the use of existing 'medium tech' to make humanitarian demining more efficient and effective in the short-term while higher technologies are being looked into.

High Technology: US Support

President Clinton has directed the Department of Defense to expand its efforts to develop better mine detection and mine-clearing technology for use in the many countries that are still plagued by mines. ...

These [technologies] include chemical foam to mark mine locations, and liquid explosive or LEX foam and mini-flails to detonate mines in place. Field testing under adverse conditions is an excellent opportunity for the United States to contribute to new technology development in humanitarian demining.

Where do we go from here?

...even if an international ban on anti-personnel landmines were to take effect immediately, our world will still require decades to remove all hidden killers from the ground. In calling for an international landmine ban and increased demining activity, President Clinton at the United Nations said that our children deserve to walk the earth in safety. Mine awareness training, especially for children, will be needed in Bosnia and elsewhere for quite some time. We are very pleased that the US entertainment industry, Warner Brothers and DC Comics, joined with us and the United Nations to produce a Superman comic book in three languages as a new mine awareness and education tool for the children of Bosnia. This is a beacon of hope for the future, indeed, a future without the fear of landmines. ..."

Source: United States Information Agency, 3 December.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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