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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 27, June 1998

Landmines Developments

In late June, Britain made clear its determination to ratify the December 1997 Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines before Parliament's Summer Recess in July. Speaking at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook stated: "At the Cabinet meeting today [Prime Minister] Tony Blair made clear his own personal commitment to early moves to ratify the Convention. We are working hard to find a way forward which will enable us to complete the Parliamentary processes before the Summer Recess. Britain helped draft the Ottawa Convention, and Britain wants to help bring it into force."

The Convention will enter into force following the 40th ratification. On 23 June, Canada's Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy announced the 20th ratification (see Documents and Sources). By that date, 126 States had signed the Convention, excluding some of the world's major producers and deployers of landmines such as the United States, Russia and China. In further evidence of Britain's prioritisation of the issue, the Ministry of Defence on 18 June gave details of the ongoing destruction of its landmines stockpile. According to Defence Secretary George Robertson:

"Last week we reaffirmed our commitment to the global elimination of these weapons with a symbolic detonation of 1,000 mines on Salisbury Plain. The devastating blast effect of one single mine was also demonstrated and 438,727 weapons with this stark potential have now been destroyed. By July we will have halved the UK's stockpile of 1 million anti-personnel mines. We are making rapid progress towards our target of total destruction of our stocks by 1 January 2000 - a target which itself falls well within the deadline of the Ottawa Convention."

On 25 June, the US Army announced it would soon be completing the destruction of its US-based stockpile of non-self-destructing landmines. According to a Defense Department statement, on 30 June the "Army will detonate approximately 80 non-self-destructing landmines at Crane Army Ammunition Activity (AAA), Indiana, as part of ceremonies commemorating final destruction of the US-based stockpile of more than 3.3 million non-self-destructing anti-personnel landmines." The statement went on: "On 16 May, 1996, the President directed the destruction of all [such]...landmines, except for those needed for the defense of the Republic of Korea, by 31 December, 1999.

The US will retain approximately one million non-self-destructing landmines, most of which are stockpiled on the Korean Peninsular. Small numbers will be maintained at various training locations for demining training purposes. The Department of Defense remains committed to identifying and fielding suitable alternatives to anti-personnel landmines and mixed munitions by 2006."

In late May, the US announced its firm intention to accede to the Ottawa Convention by 2006 (see last issue).

Reports: Half of UK's anti-personnel landmines to be destroyed by July, UK Ministry of Defence Press Release, 18 June; Landmine ban treaty halfway to coming into force, Reuters, 23 June; Landmines, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Daily Bulletin, 25 June; Destruction of last non-self-destructing anti-personnel landmines in US-based stockpile, US Department of Defense Press Release, 25 June; Army to destroy landmines, Associated Press, 25 June.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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