Saying it wants to join an international treaty banning anti-personnel land mines, the U.S. announced today that it will no longer make "or otherwise acquire" them. The new policy was announced at a conference on the Ottawa Convention, a 1999 treaty that outlaws the mines.
The country's stronger stance on mines is part of a push "to end the use of all nondetectable mines and all persistent mines, which can remain active for years after the end of a conflict," according to a White House news release issued this morning.
The new policy was announced to coincide with the conference that's taking place this week in Mozambique.
"The old argument is that the U.S. needs land mines to stave off the North Koreans," The Chicago Sun-Times writes about the U.S. reluctance to join the pact. "But in a world of fast deployment forces, that's not a convincing reason, and military experts have claimed that mines constrict defense more than help."
Worldwide, 161 countries have signed the Ottawa accord. While the U.S. isn't one of them, in the early 1990s, the country established an aid program that it says has doled out some $2.3 billion in aid to eliminate land mines and to help their victims.
It's not known how long it might take the U.S. to deplete its arsenal of the mines. Today's announcement didn't include a potential deadline for joining the mine treaty.
"The United States has not disclosed precise details about the size of its stockpile," reports The New York Times. "Arms control experts have estimated it to be between 10 million and 13 million."
The White House says the U.S. is conducting tests and simulations that can help it "mitigate the risks associated with the loss" of the anti-personnel mines.