Trump lifts US restrictions on anti-personnel landmines


Washington (AFP)

President Donald Trump on Friday lifted US restrictions on deployment of landmines, saying a new generation of high-tech explosives would improve security for US forces.

In the latest reversal of a policy of his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump gave the green light to so-called "non-persistent" landmines that can be switched off remotely rather than staying in the ground forever.

"The Department of Defense has determined that restrictions imposed on American forces by the Obama administration's policy could place them at a severe disadvantage during a conflict against our adversaries," a White House statement said.

"The president is unwilling to accept this risk to our troops," it said.

"President Trump is rebuilding our military, and it is stronger than ever."

Obama in 2014 banned the use of anti-personnel landmines with the exception, under pressure from military planners, of the Korean peninsula where the explosives dot the last Cold War frontier with North Korea.

Obama also ordered the destruction of anti-personnel stockpiles not designed to defend South Korea and said the United States would not cooperate with other nations in developing landmines.

Trump said the US military will now be free to deploy landmines around the world "in exceptional circumstances."

In rescinding the White House directive, Trump said that policy would now be set by the Pentagon, which is expected still to prohibit traditional landmines that cannot be turned off or destroyed remotely.

Neither Obama's nor Trump's orders affect anti-tank mines, which are not prohibited.

Despite Trump's move, the United States is not expected immediately to deploy anti-personnel mines, which it has not used in a substantial way since the 1991 Gulf War.

More than 160 countries are party to the 1999 Ottawa Convention that aims to eliminate anti-personnel mines, including most of the Western world.

Major outliers include the United States, Russia and China as well as India and Pakistan.