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United States

Last Updated: 28 November 2013

Mine Ban Policy

Mine ban policy overview

Mine Ban Treaty status

State not party

Pro-mine ban UNGA voting record

Abstained on Resolution 67/32 in December 2012, as in previous years

Participation in Mine Ban Treaty meetings

Attended Twelfth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in December 2012 but did not attend the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in May 2013

Key developments

Mine policy review concluded, but not announced


The United States of America (US) has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. A review of US landmine ban policy, announced in November 2009, was apparently concluded in 2011 but the outcome still had not been announced as of September 2013.

In December 2012, a Department of State official informed States Parties, “We have not made a decision on United States accession” to the Mine Ban Treaty and said: “Our review has identified operational issues relating to accession that require careful consideration. This consideration is ongoing, and we expect to be able to announce a decision soon.”[1]

At a Mine Ban Treaty side event convened by the US Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL), the US representative said that “soon” should be taken as meaning by the time of the Mine Ban Treaty’s next meeting of States Parties to be held in Geneva in December 2013. In response to questions about the “operational issues” cited in the statement the official stated, “We’ve made real progress. We’ve identified the issues. Our homework is done. Now it’s about looking at the options and going forward.”[2]

At the outset of the policy review in 2009, the US cautioned that it would take “some time” to complete the 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….”[3] According to then-National Security Advisor General James L. Jones, the purpose of the review was “to specifically examine the costs and benefits that would be involved in a decision to accede to the Ottawa Treaty.”[4]

The US was the first nation to call for the “eventual elimination” of antipersonnel mines in September 1994 and it 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 both the treaty and the goal of the US ever joining.[5] As mentioned above, in November 2009 the administration of President Barack Obama publicly acknowledged that a comprehensive review of US mine policy was underway.[6]

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. Since the US participated in the Second Review Conference in November 2009, it has continued to attend Mine Ban Treaty meetings as an observer.[7] The US attended the Twelfth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva in December 2012 where it made a brief statement on universalization.[8] The US attended intersessional Standing Committee meetings in Geneva in June 2011 but not those held in May 2012 or May 2013.[9]

On 3 December 2012, the US abstained from voting on UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 67/32 calling for universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, as it had in previous years. It was one of only 19 nations to abstain.

Over the course of the policy review, there have been numerous expressions of support for the US joining the Mine Ban Treaty. In May 2010, more than two-thirds of the US Senate wrote to President Obama 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.”[10] 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.[11] On 18 April 2012, the USCBL sent a letter signed by the leaders of 76 NGOs to President Obama to encourage him 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.”[12] In January 2013, Foreign Policy magazine included a call for the US to ban landmines to a list of ten foreign policy objectives for the second term of the Obama Administration.[13] On 1 March 2013, the 13th anniversary of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty, the USCBL called on the United States to “embrace the Mine Ban Treaty and announce concrete plans for a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel mines.”[14]

During an August 2013 visit to Colombia, US Secretary of State John Kerry rolled up his pant leg in solidarity with landmine victims.[15]

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 4 April 2013, as required under Article 13, and a national annual report for Protocol V on 5 April 2013, as required by Article 10.

Use, transfer, production, and stockpiling

The last known US use of antipersonnel mines was in 1991.[16] There were reports in 2009 and 2010 of US forces in Afghanistan using Claymore directional fragmentation mines.[17] However, these munitions are not prohibited under the Mine Ban Treaty if used in command-detonated mode.[18]

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.[19] In its CCW Amended Protocol II Article 13 report, delivered in 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 [Department of Defense] 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.[20]

The US is retaining a small quantity of “persistent mines” for demining and counter-mine testing and training.[21]

On 26 December 2007, the comprehensive US moratorium on the export of antipersonnel mines was extended for six years until 2014.[22] 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.[23] 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 are being funded, the XM-7 Spider Networked Munition and the IMS Scorpion, 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).[24]

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.[25]

The Monitor has been reporting, based on official 2002 data, that the US has a stockpile of approximately 10.4 million antipersonnel mines.[26] 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.


[2] USCBL press release, “United States Declares Decision on Joining Mine Ban Treaty Is Coming ‘Soon,’” 7 December 2012, www.uscbl.org/fileadmin/content/images/Press_Releases/December_7_2012_12MSP__U.S._Statement__Press_Release_12.7.2012.pdf.

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

[4] 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.”

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

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

[8] The US gave details of its support for demining, risk education, victim assistance, as well as details about its stockpile maintenance and destruction of excess, unstable weapons and munitions, and also 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 Eleventh Meeting of States Parties and would be released officially later in December 2012.

[9] 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.

[10] 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. Human Rights Watch, “US: Two-Thirds in Senate Back Landmine Ban,” Press release, 8 May 2010.

[11] 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, nobelwomensinitiative.org/2010/11/landmines-letter-to-obama/..

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

[13] “The Second Coming: What can the 44th president really achieve in his second term?” 2 January 2013, www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/01/02/the_second_coming?page=0,1.

[14] USCBL, “Mine Ban Treaty Celebrates Fourteenth Anniversary: Campaigners Ask for U.S. to Conclude Review & Announce Intention to Join Treaty,” Press release, 1 March 2013.

[15] “US Secretary of State John Kerry goes Paralympic in Colombia,” Paralympic Movement website, 16 August 2013, www.paralympic.org/news/us-secretary-state-john-kerry-goes-paralympic-colombia?skin=normal.

[16] 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.

[17] Christopher John Chivers, “Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban with Swift and Lethal Results,” New York Times, 17 April 2009, www.nytimes.com/2009/04/17/world/asia/17afghan.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0; and “Taliban displays ‘US weapons,’” Aljazeera, 10 November 2009, www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2009/11/200911103328650297.html.

[18] 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.

[19] 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, www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/14/us-usa-landmines-idUSTRE71D6F020110214.

[20] CCW Amended Protocol II National Report (“reporting for the time period through September 2011”), Form C, 30 March 2012, www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/AD0E2FD6365586DFC12579D300589B45/$file/United_States_APII_NAR_30_March_2012.pdf. The 2013 Article 13 report indicated no change from the 2012 report.

[21] David Alexander, “U.S. halts use of long-life landmines, officials say,” Reuters (Washington, DC), 14 February 2011, www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/14/us-usa-landmines-idUSTRE71D6F020110214.

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

[23] 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/asmp/campaigns/landmines/FactSheet_NewUSPolicy_2-27-04.htm.

[24] 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 the Monitor.

[25] 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.

[26] 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,” Appendix I, September 2002, pp. 39–43.