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US bans use of landmines outside Korean Peninsula

The United States will not use anti-personnel landmines outside the Korean Peninsula, the White House announced Tuesday ahead of a meeting of the United Nations in New York.

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The U.S. is also planning to destroy its stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines not needed for the tense conflict between North and South Korea, and will not assist or encourage any allies to build or deploy the mines.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian effects of anti-personnel landmines. As the world’s leading donor to humanitarian mine action, we have long worked to mitigate the human costs of their use,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, calling the move a “significant step forward.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the unique situation on the Korean Peninsula was all that was keeping the U.S. from fully signing on to the landmark Ottawa Convention, which bans the landmines.

“Even as we take these further steps, the unique circumstances on the Korean Peninsula and our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea preclude us from changing our anti-personnel landmine policy there at this time,” Hayden said.

She said the U.S. was working diligently to find ways other than landmines to help ensure the security of the Korean border without endangering South Korea. She also pointed out the U.S. had provided more than $2.3 billion in aid for weapons destruction programs over the past two decades.

Critics of the U.S. policy have suggested that, because the U.S. has not fully signed on to the Ottawa Convention, which bans landmines, other major nations like China, Russia, India and Pakistan have also refused to do so.