Japan says it will break ranks, sign land mine treaty
October 21, 1997
Web posted at: 9:28 a.m. EDT (1328 GMT)
TOKYO (CNN) -- Japan's Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said
Monday he is now ready to sign a global treaty to ban
anti-personnel land mines, over the objections of political
partners both at home and abroad.
Nearly 100 countries endorsed an anti-personnel land mine
treaty in Oslo last month; the treaty is due to be signed in
Ottawa, Canada, between December 2 and 4. But the United
States, Japan's closest ally, refuses to sign the treaty.
The U.S. government wants to use land mines on the
tension-filled Korean Peninsula for nine more years because
of the uncertain situation there. It says joining the ban
would force it to defuse minefields along the border between
North and South Korea, threatening the safety of U.S. troops
on the peninsula.
Meanwhile, Japan's own defense ministry has also argued
against signing the ban. Japan Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma
said that without the participation of the world's two
largest military powers, the United States and China, the
treaty would be toothless.
And he insisted that Japan needs to keep land mines to deter
possible attacks on the country's coastline. Japan has some
1 million land mines in storage, which it could bury along
its coastline to defend itself.
But Hashimoto says the ministry must come on board with other
Japanese ministries to work out details of a ban. Tokyo will
also try to work out its policy differences with Washington.
Japan's foreign minister says he will set up meetings with
U.S. officials as soon as possible to defuse bilateral
Japanese officials said Tokyo's attitude changed after the
International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its U.S.
coordinator, Jody Williams, won the Nobel Peace Prize earlier
The campaign to ban land mines, which are estimated to kill
or maim 26,000 people a year, has been gathering steam for
five years. It received huge international attention after
the death in August of Britain's Princess Diana, who had
championed the cause.
Correspondent Pamela Burton and Reuters contributed to this report.