U.S. agrees to soften stance on land-mine ban
September 15, 1997
Web posted at: 11:26 p.m. EDT (0326 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Clinton administration has offered to sign a
treaty to ban antipersonnel land mines, as long as the United States has
the right to maintain mines in Korea for nine years, officials said
Monday. The offer represents a major shift in U.S. policy.
Over the weekend, U.S. officials informed allies negotiating a
Canada-sponsored treaty to ban land mines that it was willing to sign it
and drop a previous demand that a Korean Peninsula exemption be written
into the document.
The United States seeks to keep antipersonnel mines in the demilitarized
zone in Korea and wants the option of using anti-tank land mines in
times of war. The Pentagon views the land mines deployed in Korea as
the major deterrent to a North Korean attack on South Korea, where some
37,000 American soldiers are stationed.
Thousands of people, most of them women and children, are maimed or
killed every year by land mines, long after the fighting has stopped in
such countries as Bosnia, Cambodia and Angola.
Princess Diana actively had campaigned for a land-mine ban, and during
her funeral, many television programs showed photos of her with Bosnian
and Angolan victims. State Department spokesman James Foley denied that
sympathy for Diana had created political pressure and forced the policy
"I don't think our commitment to achieving a global ban was any less
prior to the passing of Princess Diana than it is today," Foley told
Negotiators for the treaty told CNN that the change in the U.S. position
is significant and welcome, but it could take some selling for the
parties involved in the treaty talks to agree.
Canadian diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told
CNN they are skeptical of the U.S. proposal. They said it does not go
far enough. The treaty is expected to be finalized this week and signed
in December -- with or without U.S. participation.
U.S. government sources told CNN the Pentagon became resigned to the
possibility of signing the treaty, when Diana became an active supporter
of a ban. When Diana died two weeks ago, the sources said, Pentagon
officials decided, in effect, to drop their opposition to it.
Foley denied that Diana influenced the U.S. decision. The shift in
policy was a "negotiating change," he said. "Goals in Oslo (where the
talks are under way) remain the same."
CNN World Affairs Correspondent Ralph Begleiter and Military
Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this