Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 22, January 1998
During a visit to South Korea, US Defense Secretary William Cohen strongly defended the right of the United States to deploy anti-personnel landmines on the Korean Peninsular - an insistence which has rendered the US unable to sign the December 1997 Ottawa Convention banning all such weapons. Speaking by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, Cohen told reporters: "The landmines that are here do provide a very strong deterrent for the North to in any way run their troops or their tanks...to downtown Seoul. ... Without these mines our troops would be vulnerable, indeed the people of South Korea would be vulnerable, to a surprise attack and to the strength of a million-man army on the other side of the DMZ..."
Although the US does not currently intend to sign the Ottawa Convention, it is making a considerable effort to support demining internationally. On 20-21 January, the Department of Defense hosted a Mine Action Center Workshop at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, attended by military and civilian experts and practitioners in demining.
On 29 January, British Defence Secretary George Robertson announced that the UK hoped to complete the destruction of almost all its landmines stocks within two years, a faster schedule than previously envisaged. 5,000 mines have been destroyed in the last few months, and Mr. Robertson said the goal was to leave undestroyed fewer than 4,000, to be retained for help train troops in demining techniques.
Reports: Cohen defends mine ban holdout, Associated Press, 21 January Deminers describe equipment needs at Pentagon workshop, United States Information Service, 23 January Britain speeds up landmine destruction, United Press International, 29 January.
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.