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United States

Last Updated: 17 December 2012

Mine Ban Policy

Mine ban policy overview

Mine Ban Treaty status

Not a State Party

Pro-mine ban UNGA voting record

Abstained on Resolution 66/29 in December 2011, as in previous years

Participation in Mine Ban Treaty meetings

Attended as an observer the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in November–December 2011 but did not attend the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in May 2012

Key developments

Mine policy review still underway


The United States of America (US) has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. A review of US landmine ban policy was announced in November 2009 and was officially reported in 2011 and in April 2012 to be still continuing; the US Campaign to Ban Landmines said its understanding was that “the inter-agency deliberations have now concluded and the decision-making point has been reached.”[1] A decision is not expected until after the presidential election in November 2012.

In November 2011, a Department of State official informed States Parties, “The United States applauds the significant accomplishments to date by Parties to the Ottawa Convention in addressing the humanitarian impact of anti-personnel landmines.”[2]

The US was the first nation to call for the “eventual elimination” of antipersonnel mines in September 1994 and participated in the Ottawa Process that led to the creation of the treaty, but did not sign in 1997. The Clinton administration set the goal of joining in 2006. However, in 2004 the Bush administration announced a new policy that rejected the treaty and the goal of the US ever joining.[3] As mentioned above, in November 2009 the administration of President Barack Obama publicly acknowledged that a comprehensive review of US mine policy was underway.[4]

Until the Obama administration’s policy review is completed, the 2004 Bush policy remains in place, permitting the indefinite use of self-destructing, self-deactivating antipersonnel mines anywhere in the world. In accordance with the Bush policy, as of 31 December 2010 the US prohibits the use of antipersonnel mines that do not self-destruct and self-deactivate (sometimes called “persistent” or “dumb” mines) anywhere in the world, including in Korea.

The US cautioned in December 2009 that “it will take some time to complete” the policy review “given that we must ensure that all factors are considered, including possible alternatives to meet our national defense needs and security commitments to our friends and allies….”[5] According to then-National Security Advisor General James L. Jones, the purpose of the review is “to specifically examine the costs and benefits that would be involved in a decision to accede to the Ottawa Treaty.”[6]

During 2010, the Department of State coordinated a series of interagency meetings with stakeholders, including NGOs. The administration also reached out to US political and military allies, including States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, for input into the policy review. In 2011, the pace of the review slowed, but in November 2011, the US stated that “the review is active and ongoing, and we are making real progress.” It thanked the “international organizations, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, former U.S. government officials, and other states – both Parties to the Ottawa Convention and those that are not” and stated that “the input we received from these consultations is being taken into account as part of our review.”[7]

There have been examples of inconsistent policy statements by US agencies and officials on the status of the policy review and the US position on joining the Mine Ban Treaty.[8] In April 2012, after US Ambassador Susan Rice and the State Department both described reports of Syria’s use of antipersonnel mines on its borders as “horrific,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the US to follow-up on the rebuke by completing the policy review and joining the Mine Ban Treaty.[9]

Since the US participated in the Second Review Conference in November 2009, it has continued to attend Mine Ban Treaty meetings as an observer.[10] The US attended the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November–December 2011 where it made statements on universalization and cooperation and assistance.[11] The US attended intersessional Standing Committee meetings in Geneva in June 2011, but not in May 2012.[12]

On 2 December 2011, the US abstained from voting on UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 66/29 in December 2011 calling for universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, as it had in previous years. It was one of only 18 nations to abstain.

More than two-thirds of the US Senate wrote to President Obama in May 2010 to state strong support for the ban on antipersonnel mines and expressed confidence that, “through a thorough, deliberative review the Administration can identify any obstacles to joining the Convention and develop a plan to overcome them as soon as possible.”[13] On 30 November 2010, 16 Nobel Peace Prize laureates sent a letter to President Obama urging a US decision to join the Mine Ban Treaty.[14] On 8 September 2010, the presidents of more than a dozen leading health associations wrote to President Obama calling on the US to join the Mine Ban Treaty.[15] 

On 1 March 2011, the 12th anniversary of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty, the ICBL continued its outreach campaign which was launched one year prior to encourage US accession to the treaty.[16] Campaigners requested visits with over 60 US embassies worldwide, resulting in 35 meetings between US officials and ICBL representatives.[17]

On 18 April 2012, the US Campaign to Ban Landmines sent a letter signed by the leaders of 76 NGOs to President Obama expressing their appreciation of “the thoroughness with which the review has apparently been conducted,” but also their dismay “at the lengthy period of time involved.” The letter “strongly” encourages President Obama to “make a decision on future U.S. landmine policy as soon as possible” and “announce that the United States will accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.”[18]

The US is a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Amended Protocol II on landmines and Protocol V on explosive remnants of war. It submitted its annual national report for Amended Protocol II on 30 March 2012, as required under Article 13, and a national annual report for Protocol V on 6 July 2011, as required by Article 10.

A 2009 US Department of State cable made public by Wikileaks in August 2011 showed how the US worked in 1997 to convince Pacific nations not to join the Mine Ban Treaty.[19]

Use, transfer, production, and stockpiling

The last known US use of antipersonnel mines was in 1991.[20] There were reports in 2009 and 2010 of US forces in Afghanistan using Claymore directional fragmentation mines.[21] However, these munitions are not prohibited under the Mine Ban Treaty if used in command-detonated mode.[22]

In February 2012, US officials confirmed implementation of the 2004 policy directive to end the use of so-called persistent (non-self-destructing) mines by the end of 2010. [23] In its CCW Amended Protocol II Article 13 report, delivered March 2012, the US provided the following statement:

“Beginning January 1, 2011, the United States no longer uses any persistent landmines anywhere. All persistent landmines, both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle, have been transferred to inactive inventory and will be destroyed in accordance with U.S. DoD policies and procedures”.

According to the statement, the United States’ entire stockpile of landmines now has the features of self-destruct and self-deactivation specifications provided in Amended Protocol II landmines.[24]

The US is retaining a small quantity of “persistent mines” for demining and counter-mine testing and training.[25]

On 26 December 2007, the comprehensive US moratorium on the export of antipersonnel mines was extended for six years until 2014.[26] US law has prohibited all antipersonnel mine exports since 23 October 1992, through a series of multi-year extensions of the moratorium.

The US has not produced antipersonnel mines since 1997. It is one of just 12 countries in the world that either still actively produces the weapon or reserves the right to do so.[27] However, the US currently has no plans to produce antipersonnel mines in the future. There are no victim-activated munitions being funded in the procurement or the research and development budgets of the US Armed Services or Department of Defense. 

Two programs that once had the potential for victim-activated features (thereby making them antipersonnel mines as defined by the Mine Ban Treaty), but that are now solely “man-in-the-loop” (command-detonated, and therefore permissible under the treaty), are being funded: XM-7 Spider Networked Munition and IMS Scorpion.[28]

In light of the termination in 2008 of the War Reserve Stocks for Allies, Korea (WRSA-K) program, and the US policy of prohibiting use of non-self-destructing antipersonnel mines in Korea after 2010, it appears that the approximately half a million mines stored in South Korea will be removed and destroyed.[29]

The Monitor has been reporting, based on official 2002 data, that the US has a stockpile of approximately 10.4 million antipersonnel mines.[30] However, knowledgeable sources have indicated to the Monitor that the current active stockpile is far smaller, and that millions of stockpiled mines have been removed from service and have been or will be destroyed.


[1] Joint Letter to President Obama reiterating the call for the U.S. to join the Mine Ban Treaty, 4 April 2012, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/landmines/upload/Joint-Letter-to-Obama-on-Mine-Ban-Treaty-2012-04-04.pdf.

[2] Statement of the US, Mine Ban Treaty Eleventh Meeting of States Parties, Phnom Penh, 2 December 2011.

[3] See, US Department of State, “Fact Sheet: New United States Policy on Landmines: Reducing Humanitarian Risk and Saving Lives of United States Soldiers,” Washington, DC, 27 February 2004.

[4] David Alexander, “U.S. landmines policy still under review,” Reuters (Washington, DC), 25 November 2009. The review got off to a fitful start. In what was later termed a mistake, on 24 November 2009, a US Department of State spokesperson responded to a question by stating that the Obama administration had completed a review of national mine policy and concluded the existing Bush-era policy would remain in effect and the US would not join the Mine Ban Treaty. Ian Kelly, Department Spokesperson, “Daily Press Briefing,” Department of State, Washington, DC, 24 November 2009.

[5] Statement of the US, Mine Ban Treaty Second Review Conference, Cartagena, 1 December 2009.

[6] Letter from Gen. James L. Jones, US Marine Corps (Ret.), National Security Advisor, to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, 26 March 2010. He also stated they were reviewing “all mission requirements for which mines may still have a doctrinal utility. Our review seeks to determine whether each of those missions and tasks can be accomplished without the use of mines, whether through operational adaptation, the use of existing alternative systems, or the development of new technologies.”

[7] Statement of the US, Mine Ban Treaty Eleventh Meeting of States Parties, Phnom Penh, 2 December 2011.

[8] For example, in January 2010, the US responded to a request from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the US to join the Mine Ban Treaty with the following statement: “The United States has no plans to become party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.” It did not report that a policy review was underway. See: UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 8, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Second periodic reports of States parties due in 2010 - United States of America, 31 October 2011, CRC/C/OPAC/USA/2, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4ef1eb5f8.html, accessed 28 September 2012.

[9] HRW, “US: Follow-up Rebuke to Syria on Landmines,” Press release, 4 April 2012, http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/04/04/us-follow-rebuke-syria-landmines

[10] Previously, the last time the US had attended even an informal Mine Ban Treaty-related meeting (intersessional Standing Committee meetings) was in June 2005.

[11] The US gave details of its support for demining, risk education, victim assistance as well as stockpile maintenance and destruction of excess, unstable weapons and munitions, and noted that its publication To Walk the Earth in Safety detailing all financial support it provided in the previous year, was available to delegates at the 11th Meeting of States Parties and would be released officially later in December 2012.

[12] During the meeting, the US delegation met with ICBL representatives and confirmed the policy review was continuing. ICBL meeting with Steven Costner, US Department of State, Geneva, 23 June 2011.

[13] The Senate letter was organized by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–VT) and Sen. George Voinovich (R–OH). Letter to President Barack Obama from 68 US Senators, 18 May 2010. To join an international treaty, two-thirds of the 100-member US Senate must “provide their advice and consent.” An identical letter organized by Rep. Jim McGovern (D–MA) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R–CA) was sent to President Obama on 18 May 2010 by members of the House of Representatives. Letter to President Barack Obama from 57 members of the House of Representatives, 18 May 2010. HRW, “US: Two-Thirds in Senate Back Landmine Ban,” Press release, 8 May 2010.

[14] Signatories included Wangari Mathaai, Mohamed El Baradei, Shirin Ebadi, Aung San Suu Kyi, His Holiness Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, and Jody Williams. The letter is available at, www.nobelwomensinitiative.org.

[15] The letter is available at, www.physiciansforhumanrights.org

[16] ICBL, “Groups Worldwide Urge the U.S. to Ban Landmines,” Press release, 1 March 2011; and ICBL, “Time for United States to Join the Mine Ban Treaty,” Press release, 1 March 2010, www.icbl.org.  

[17] Zach Hudson, “US Landmine Policy Review Moving Forward,” ICBL News, July 2010, www.icbl.org.  

[18] USCBL “Civil Society Leaders Urge President Obama to Conclude Landmine Policy Review,” Press release, 18 April 2012, http://www.uscbl.org/fileadmin/content/images/Press_Releases/April_18_2012_NGO_Letter_Press_Release.pdf.

[19] According to the diplomatic cable issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in September 2009, US officials met representatives from the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau on 2 December 1997, on the eve of the Mine Ban Treaty Signing Conference in Ottawa, “at the latter three’s request to discuss their potential signature/ratification.” During the meeting, US officials warned that “the U.S. would not adhere to the Ottawa Convention and that adherence by the other three states could conflict with defense provisions of the respective bilateral Compacts of Free Association.” Palau acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty on 18 November 2007 after, according to the cable, Palau “determined that the Ottawa Convention did not conflict with the Compact of Free Association.” Micronesia remains outside the Mine Ban Treaty. The Marshall Islands signed the Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa on 4 December 1997, but has not yet ratified. The diplomatic cable provides “talking points” for US officials to respond to a “request” from the Marshall Islands for clarification on the US position on its potential ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty. “Concerns on Marshall Islands Ratification of the Ottawa Convention,” US Department of State cable 09STATE91952 dated 3 September 2009, released by Wikileaks on 26 August 2011, http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=09STATE91952.

[20] The US last used mines in 1991 in Iraq and Kuwait, scattering 117,634 of them mostly from airplanes. US General Accounting Office, “GAO-02-1003: MILITARY OPERATIONS: Information on US use of Land Mines in the Persian Gulf War,” September 2002, Appendix I, pp. 8–9.

[21] See for example, Christopher John Chivers, “Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban with Swift and Lethal Results,” New York Times, 17 April 2009; and “Taliban displays ‘US weapons,’” Aljazeera, 10 November 2009, english.aljazeera.net.

[22] The use of Claymore mines in command-detonated mode, usually electrical detonation, is permitted by the Mine Ban Treaty, while use in victim-activated mode, usually with a tripwire, is prohibited. For many years, US policy and doctrine has prohibited the use of Claymore mines with tripwires, except in Korea. See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 346.

[23] In December 2010, the US Army directed its field operations “to assign all stocks of persistent landmines, both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle, for demilitarization (destruction).” A State Department official said, “We have ended the use of all persistent mines,” and said that Defense Department personnel in the field had been notified that “these were off the table, that they’re being moved to the inactive stockpile and are no longer an option for use.” David Alexander, “U.S. halts use of long-life landmines, officials say,” Reuters (Washington, DC), 14 February 2011.

[24] CCW Amended Protocol II National Report, Form C, 30 March 2012 (“reporting for the time period through September 2011”), http://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/AD0E2FD6365586DFC12579D300589B45/$file/United_States_APII_NAR_30_March_2012.pdf.

[25] David Alexander, “U.S. halts use of long-life landmines, officials say,” Reuters (Washington, DC), 14 February 2011.

[26] Public Law 110-161, Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Section 634(j), 26 December 2007, p. 487.

[27] The Bush administration mine policy announced in February 2004 states, “The United States will continue to develop non-persistent anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines.” See, US Department of State, “Fact Sheet: New United States Policy on Landmines: Reducing Humanitarian Risk and Saving Lives of United States Soldiers,” Washington, DC, 27 February 2004, www.fas.org..

[28] For background on Spider and IMS, and the decision not to include victim-activated features, see Landmine Monitor Report 2009, pp. 1,131–1,132; Landmine Monitor Report 2008, pp. 1,040–1,041; and earlier editions of Landmine Monitor.

[29] For more details, see ICBL, “Country Profile: South Korea,” www.the-monitor.org. For many years, the US military also stockpiled about 1.1 million M14 and M16 non-self-destructing antipersonnel mines for use in any future war in Korea, with about half the total kept in South Korea and half in the continental US. In June 2011, a Foreign Ministry official stated that South Korea safeguards an antipersonnel mines stockpile that belongs to the US military on its territory as part of the WRSA-K program. These mines are planned to be gradually transferred out of South Korea.

[30] For details on stockpiling, see Landmine Monitor Report 2009, pp. 1,132–1,133. In 2002, the US stockpile consisted of: Artillery Delivered Antipersonnel Mine/ADAM (8,366,076); M14 (696,800); M16 (465,330); Claymore (403,096); Gator (281,822); Volcano/M87 (134,200); Ground Emplaced Mine Scattering System/GEMSS (32,900); Pursuit Deterrent Munition/PDM (15,100); and Modular Pack Mine System/MOPMS (8,824). Information provided by the US Armed Services in spring/summer 2002, cited in US General Accounting Office, “GAO-02-1003: MILITARY OPERATIONS: Information on US use of Land Mines in the Persian Gulf War,” September 2002, Appendix I, pp. 39–43.