WASHINGTON — The U.S. has pledged to get rid of all stockpiles of land mines except those to defend South Korea, the State Department said Tuesday.
The decision to exclude the Korean peninsula follows a commitment the U.S. made in June that it would not make, keep or fortify current stockpiles of anti-personnel land mines.
The U.S. is “deeply concerned about the humanitarian effects of anti-personnel land mines,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “As the world’s leading donor to humanitarian mine action, we have long worked to mitigate the human costs of their use.”
Land mines can remain active for years after being buried. Since 1993, Psaki said, the U.S. has provided more than $2.3 billion in aid to more than 90 countries to dismantle conventional weapons programs. Some of that money has gone to the clearance of land mines and unexploded munitions.
Countless land mines remain in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, left over from the Korean War, when millions were buried.
Although the Obama administration says it honors the spirit of the international anti-land-mine treaty, the Ottawa Convention, the U.S. is not yet a signatory.
“This announcement brings us one step closer in aligning ourselves with the international humanitarian movement embodied by the Ottawa Convention,” Psaki said. “In the meantime, we will continue our diligent efforts to pursue solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow us to join the Ottawa Convention.”