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US to destroy land mine arsenal, except on Korean peninsula

Move comes amid global criticism of the US for failing to sign a 15-year-old convention that aims to abolish mine use

The United States pledged Tuesday to destroy its land mine supply outside of the Korean peninsula, in Washington’s latest move to make good on a decade-old promise to sign up to an international treaty banning the weapons.

“We will diligently undertake to destroy stockpiles of these land mines that are not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

The U.S. will also “not assist, encourage or induce anyone outside the Korean peninsula to engage in activity prohibited by the Ottawa Convention,” the White House said in a statement.

The announcement comes after persistent criticism of the U.S. for failing to sign the 15-year-old Ottawa Convention, which aims to abolish the use of mines. U.S. refusal to join their ranks places the country on a list that also includes Myanmar, North Korea and Uzbekistan.

The mine-ban agreement currently has 161 signatories — 80 percent of the world's nations. Then-President Bill Clinton pledged in his 1994 address to the United Nations General Assembly to eventually eliminate the use of land mines. 

Washington announced in late June that it would not expand its land mine stockpile and would eventually eliminate its supply to accede to the Ottawa Convention.

The U.S. has one of the world’s largest stockpiles, with the number of the military’s land mines estimated at upwards of 10 million.

About 4,000 people around the world are killed or lose limbs to land mines every year, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

The last recorded U.S. use of land mines was during the 1991 Gulf War, according to Human Rights Watch. The U.S. has enforced an export ban on mines since 1992, and there has been no known U.S. production of mines since 1997.

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