Hidden killers: U.S. policy on anti-personnel landmines – includes a fact sheet – Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Jan. 27, 1995

Hidden killers: U.S. policy on anti-personnel landmines – includes a fact sheet – Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Jan. 27, 1995 – Transcript

Good morning. It is a pleasure to share the stage today with the people who are most active in developing our policy on landmines. Senator Leahy and Representative Evans were vital forces in achieving the U.S. moratorium on anti-personnel landmine exports. They continue to keep the world’s attention focused on this global problem, and, literally, we would not be here without their leadership.

A vital participant in this meeting is the report, Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis, 1994. This report describes the staggering problem that unexploded landmines pose to the world today. Between 80 and 110 million of these weapons are scattered in 64 countries. They claim 500 victims every week. They do not distinguish between civilians and combatants; indeed, they probably kill more children than soldiers. And they do not cease to kill when peace treaties are signed and the guns of war fall silent.

Last September at the UN General Assembly, President Clinton dedicated our nation to the global fight against this deadly scourge. Our ultimate goal is the total elimination of anti-personnel landmines. As a first step, the President has called on all nations to join us in negotiating an agreement to reduce the number and availability of these terrible weapons.

Landmines may be the most ancient weapons on our arms control agenda. During the American Civil War, they were called “land torpedos” in official records; ordinary soldiers knew them simply as “infernal devices.” But, today, at the end of a century in which war has been waged increasingly against civilians, landmines are employed for depressingly modern ends.

Around the world, mines strewn in farmlands and paddyfields, in schoolyards, and on country roads make entire communities uninhabitable. They drive people from their land. They keep refugees from returning home.

These devices have been called “slow-motion” weapons of mass destraction. It is no exaggeration to say that they have also become weapons of mass migration. That is evident in the depopulated areas of Mozambique, where every major road system is blocked by uncleared mines. It is evident in the barren hills of Afghanistan, where mines have been placed indiscriminately around agricultural lands, water wells, and irrigation canals.

Landmines also make it harder for nations to move from conflict to reconstruction, reconciliation, and growth. They isolate roads, railways, power lines, and bridges from repair. They delay relief shipments. They disrupt internal markets. This report vividly describes the results: “Every task required to rebuild a war-shattered society is put on hold until the mines are cleared.”

The Clinton Administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to address the global landmine crisis. We are helping countries plagued by landmines to cast away their unwanted inheritance. We are leading diplomatic efforts to curb the proliferation and irresponsible use of these weapons.

The U.S. Demining Assistance Program provides training, equipment, and funds to clear mines and to teach people how to avoid them in countries like Afghanistan, Eritrea, Mozambique, and Nicaragua. In Cambodia, we have pledged $6 million to support a demining effort that has been absolutely vital to the success of peacemaking in that country. We hope to expand our assistance program to include other nations, including Rwanda and Angola.

We are also working with the UN to organize an international meeting on mine clearance, which will be held in late May in Geneva. We hope the meeting will raise a large percentage of the UN’s proposed $67-million demining budget.

In 1993, the United States extended for three years its unilateral moratorium on landmine exports. We have urged other nations to follow suit. In 1994, we spearheaded a successful resolution at the UN General Assembly to ban exports of anti-personnel mines.

Consistent with President Clinton’s initiative at the General Assembly, we have also developed a proposal for a multilateral control regime to restrict the production, stockpiling, and export of anti-personnel landmines. The regime will reduce reliance on those kinds of landmines that cause the greatest damage to civilians–those that remain lethal indefinitely, instead of self-destructing or deactivating.

I also want to call on the Senate to ratify promptly the Convention on Conventional Weapons, which contains restrictions on landmine use. We want to work to strengthen this accord–to protect civilians, to improve minefield marking and recording, and, most important, to expand its rules to cover internal conflicts.

The United States will continue to work with other governments, with the UN, and with private relief organizations to solve the landmine problem. We know that this is an immense challenge, but we will meet that challenge because we also know that ridding the world of these hidden killers will save tens of thousands of lives in the years to come.

COPYRIGHT 1995 U.S. Government Printing Office

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