MR PRICE: Thanks very much and good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining this call. We’re pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the changes that we’ve announced today to U.S. anti-personnel landmine policy. As a reminder, this call is on the record, but it is embargoed until the conclusion of the call.
We have two speakers with us this morning. You’ll first hear from Bonnie Jenkins, Dr. Bonnie Jenkins. She is our Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. We also have on the line with us Stan Brown. He is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in our Bureau of Political and Military Affairs.
So without further ado, I will turn it over to Under Secretary Jenkins to kick us off. Please, go ahead.
UNDER SECRETARY JENKINS: Great. Thank you, Ned.
Curtailing the use of landmines worldwide was a commitment that President Biden made as a candidate, and I’m extremely pleased to highlight the White House’s announcement today regarding the new anti-personnel landmine policy that achieves just what President Biden had promised.
The United States new policy on anti-personnel landmines is centered on people, the communities and the individuals around the world who seek peace and security. It is a tenet of our humanitarian demining activities. Our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, which I rolled out in April, is a great reminder of the United States’ global leadership, and I strongly encourage you to read it if you have not yet done so.
I know that you have a lot of questions about today’s White House announcement, so I will ask my colleague Stan Brown, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, to speak more about it.
Over to you, Stan.
MR BROWN: Thank you, Under Secretary Jenkins. I just want to take a moment to echo Under Secretary Jenkins’s comments and reiterate the importance of today’s announcement, which follows through on President Biden’s commitment to curtail the use of landmines worldwide.
After conducting a comprehensive policy review, the administration has announced a new U.S. policy to limit the use of anti-personnel landmines and align the United States’ policy and practice with key provisions of the Ottawa Convention for all activities outside the context of the Korean Peninsula.
As a result of the decision, the United States will not develop, produce, or acquire anti-personnel landmines, not export or transfer anti-personnel landmines except when necessary for activities related to mine destruction or removal and for the purpose of destruction. They will not use anti-personnel landmines outside the Korean Peninsula, they will not assist, encourage, or induce anyone outside the context of the Korean Peninsula to engage in activity that would be prohibited by the Ottawa Convention, and undertake to destroy anti-personnel landmines and their stockpiles not required for the defense of the Korean Peninsula.
We will continue to pursue materiel and operational solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention, while we at the same ensure our ability to meet our alliance commitments.
The administration’s actions today are in a sharp contrast to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where there’s compelling evidence that Russian forces are using explosive munitions, including landmines, in an irresponsible manner which is causing extensive harm to civilians and damage to vital civilian infrastructure there.
Lastly, just in a – here at – the United States is proud to lead the world in conventional weapons destruction. We’ve invested more than 4.2 billion in more than 100 countries since 1993 to promote international peace and security through our conventional weapons destruction programs. We’ll continue this important work and remain committed to continuing partnerships to address the humanitarian impacts of anti-personnel landmines.
With that just kind of as an opening statement, I’d be happy to take any questions from the group.
MR PRICE: Thanks very much. Operator, if you wouldn’t mind repeating the instructions to ask a question.
OPERATOR: And once again, for any questions or comments, you may queue up by pressing 1 and then 0. That’s 1 and then 0 for any questions or comments.
MR PRICE: Great. We’ll start with the line of Shaun Tandon, please.
OPERATOR: One moment. And your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks for doing this. Nice to hear from you, Bonnie and Stan, and Ned of course.
Could I ask you about – of course, you mentioned Russia. China as well, as far as I know, is not part of the Ottawa Treaty. How much do you expect to press other countries to also give up their landmines? Is this going to become more of a diplomatic priority? And could I also ask you a bit more about the Korean Peninsula and the reason for this continued exception, as it was under the Obama administration? Is it because of the real threat of North Korea, the threats there? Is it also because of that the ROK really has control over the landmines there? Could you explain the reasoning behind continuing that exception? Thanks.
MR BROWN: All right. So first of all, to address the Korea exception, that’s owing to our specific defense responsibilities there and our defense partnership. The – first of all, the United States does not maintain any minefields in Korea or on the DMZ. They’re all owned by the Republic of Korea. We have a responsibility for defense of South Korea. With the requirements of the Ottawa Convention, where we can’t assist, encourage, or induce anyone to use landmines, we cannot meet the treaty obligations there due to those defense requirements. So in that regard, we are basically falling back to the Obama administration policies to make sure that we can meet our requirements with Korea in that regard.
In the – in regards to the requirements of the convention, we are basically aligning ourselves with – basically it’s with Article 1 of the Ottawa Convention and the principles that have been laid out in the fact sheets and kind of the discussion points that we’ve laid out here. We will be meeting those requirements as – everywhere in the world except for on the Korean Peninsula.
MR PRICE: We’ll go to the line of Jennifer Hansler.
OPERATOR: One moment. And your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. I just want to be clear whether today’s action fully returns us to the Obama-era policy of landmine usage, and does this direct the Defense Department to destruct landmines in its possession? And also, you mentioned Russia. How much of an impetus was the war in Ukraine on finally making this change to the Trump-era policy? Thank you.
MR BROWN: So part of the – so as the policy is being put in place, basically we’re not going to develop or produce or acquire anti-personnel landmines; we’re not going to export or transfer anti-personnel landmines; we’re not going to use them outside the Korean Peninsula. We would – part of the policy is also to undertake to destroy all anti-personnel stockpiles not required for the defense of Korea, Republic of Korea. And again, we would not assist, encourage, or induce anyone outside the context of the Korean Peninsula to engage in any activity that would be prohibited by the convention.
In that regard – I’m sorry, could you repeat the second part of that question?
MR PRICE: I believe it was whether there – it would require the destruction of any anti-personnel landmines.
MR BROWN: Right, and we said the policy does undertake to destroy all anti-personnel landmines in stockpiles not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.
MR PRICE: We’ll go to the line of Missy Ryan, please.
OPERATOR: One moment.
QUESTION: Do you all hear me?
OPERATOR: And your line is open.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks. Thanks very much for doing this. And I just wanted to get an idea from the officials who are briefing – can you give us an idea of how far along the United States is in developing alternate weapons that could be employed in the Korean Peninsula along the DMZ to allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention? I haven’t been able to get a sense of whether those technologies are even in development, whether they’re close to being able to be fielded, or anything like that. Any sort of context on that would be helpful. Thanks.
MR BROWN: I can tell you that it’s being worked on, but I would have to defer you to the Department of Defense for the specific acquisition and operational capabilities of future devices.
The – going back to the last question as far as the Ukraine war being the impetus for the decision. The decision has been under review for – since the Biden administration in January of 2021. We have just reached the conclusion, and the President’s been able to make the announcement today.
MR PRICE: Chris Megerian, Associated Press.
QUESTION: Hi, everybody. So a clarification question on the potential destruction of landmines that are currently in the U.S. stockpile. Number one, how many landmines does the U.S. have in its stockpile? Number two, are all of them deemed necessary to defend the Korean Peninsula? Do we not plan to destroy any of those?
MR BROWN: The estimate of landmines in the stockpile is approximately three million. In that regard, we – I would defer to DOD for what their operational requirements would be for what would be needed for defense of Korea. And again, the policy states to basically look to undertake to destroy all anti-personnel landmines not needed for the defense of the Republic of Korea.
MR PRICE: Daphne Psaledakis.
QUESTION: Hi. Also just a point of clarification. Could you say when the U.S. last used anti-personnel landmines?
MR BROWN: The United States last used anti-personnel landmines in 1991 during the Gulf War. There was one single incident of one munition being used in the 2002 timeframe in Afghanistan. But otherwise, the United States has not used landmines in – anti-personnel landmines in any significant way since 1991.
MR PRICE: We have time for a couple of final questions. Anton La Guardia.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Can you hear me?
MR PRICE: Yes, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you just clarify whether Ukraine uses landmines and how the policy not to assist, induce other countries to use landmines can be aligned with the policy of helping Ukraine to win the war?
MR BROWN: Ukraine is a – actually a party to the Ottawa Convention, and cannot use landmines that are not – do not comply with the convention themselves. So in itself, Ukraine is not using landmines, and we have not provided landmines to Ukraine that aren’t compliant with the Ottawa Convention.
MR PRICE: We’ll go to the line of Hye Jun Seo from Radio Free Asia.
QUESTION: Hello, can you hear me?
MR PRICE: Yes. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks for taking my question. Just – follow-up on the Korean Peninsula. Was there any update on the numbers of the mines within the country? And how concerned is the DOS on the possible incidents and casualties on the Korean Peninsula due to the extensive minefield? Thank you.
MR BROWN: The United States does not main any of the minefields in the Republic of Korea, so I would have to defer you to the Republic of Korea Government to get any numbers on the number of mines and the incidents in the minefields there.
MR PRICE: And we’ll take a final question from Oskar Gorzynski, Polish Press Agency.
QUESTION: Hi. I was – I wanted to clarify something because the U.S. has – sorry, as I can remember – transferred some landmines to Ukraine, the Claymore mines. How are – how is that compliant with the Ottawa Convention? Can you explain that?
MR BROWN: Yeah. The – basically, the anti-personnel landmine in the Ottawa Convention policies are related to landmines that are exploded with the contact or presence of an individual. The Claymore mines that were transferred by the U.S. Government to Ukraine are command-detonated with a person in the loop who can actually detonate them, which reduces the impact that landmines – that type of landline, which is Ottawa-compliant, has to civilian populations.
MR PRICE: Terrific. Well, that concludes this call. Just a reminder this call was on the record. You heard from Dr. Bonnie Jenkins, our under secretary for arms control and international security, as well as Stan Brown, our principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs. With that, the call is concluded and the embargo is lifted. Thanks, everyone, for dialing in, and thanks very much to Dr. Jenkins and PDAS Brown.