The US says it will no longer make or seek to acquire landmines – adding for the first time that it intends to sign up to an international treaty banning them.
A US delegation made the announcement at a review conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in Mozambique, and the White House later confirmed the decision.
“The United States took the step of declaring it will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines in the future, including to replace existing stockpiles as they expire,” the White House said in a statement.
The number of reported casualties is said to have halved since the ban was agreed 15 years ago.
America has not produced landmines since then, but had reserved the right to resume making them.
The Pentagon’s Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said the US had an active stockpile of just over three million anti-personnel mines, adding that they did have a shelf-life.
“We anticipate that they will start to decline in their ability to be used about… starting in about ten years. And then ten years after that, they’ll be completely unusable,” he told a press briefing.
Just a few countries are responsible for most landmine casualties – the worst being Afghanistan, Colombia and Cambodia according to Handicap International.
Human rights campaigners have praised the change in US policy. Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch said the decision was a move in the right direction but that it did not go far enough.
Republicans have criticised it. Representative Randy Forbes warned that it would threaten security on the Korean peninsula, and Representative Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it was “bad for the security of our men and women in uniform.”