Trump administration loosens restrictions on use of land mines

Trump administration loosens restrictions on use of land mines
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The Trump administration has rolled back Obama-era restrictions on the U.S. military’s use of land mines that have been banned by more than 100 countries.

“The President has canceled the Obama Administration’s policy to prohibit United States military forces from employing anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula,” according to a Friday statement from the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary.

The Defense Department “has determined that restrictions imposed on American forces by the Obama Administration’s policy could place them at a severe disadvantage during a conflict against our adversaries. The President is unwilling to accept this risk to our troops.”

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The move gets rid of President Obama’s 2014 directive to no longer produce or acquire the anti-personnel land mines outside the Korean Peninsula, where they are used to protect South Korea from any threats from the North.

Obama’s commitment largely followed the 1997 Ottawa Convention. The international agreement banned the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of the weapon, and 164 countries banned the land mines as they are likely to kill and wound civilians. 

The new policy authorizes the heads of combatant commands, “in exceptional circumstances, to employ advanced, non-persistent landmines specifically designed to reduce unintended harm to civilians and partner forces,” according to the White House statement. 

CNN reported that the decision was the result of a review, ordered in 2017 by then-Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisIs coronavirus the final Trump crisis? Pentagon seeks to reconsider parts of B cloud contract given to Microsoft over Amazon Democrats press FEC pick to recuse himself from Trump matters MORE, and that the new policy is expected to allow the production and use of land mines only if they have a 30-day self-destruction or self-deactivation feature.

Ahead of the announcement, lawmakers and human rights advocacy groups criticized the move as a threat to civilians in conflict zones.  

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“The restriction on the production and use of landmines was based on research that showed the horrific human cost these weapons have caused over the years. Any action to ease restrictions on their use and availability is a massive step backward,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

“There is a reason why the use of antipersonnel landmines is illegal: they can’t distinguish between fighters and ordinary people, and often continue to kill and maim for years after conflicts end.” 

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill MORE (D-Vt.) complained that no member of Congress had been consulted on the new land mine policy ahead of its unveiling.

"The current policy, limiting the use of this inherently indiscriminate weapon to the Korean Peninsula, is the culmination of nearly 30 years of incremental steps, taken by both Democratic and Republican administrations after extensive analysis and consultation, toward the growing global consensus that anti-personnel mines should be universally banned,” Leahy said in a statement.