WASHINGTON (AP) — Three months after announcing its intention to largely comply with an international treaty banning land mines, the Obama administration on Tuesday carved out an exception for its stockpile of the weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
The White House, Pentagon and State Department announced the move in simultaneous statements as President Barack Obama prepared to travel to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly. They said the U.S. remains committed to joining the Ottawa Convention that involves 161 other nations, including all other NATO members, and will uphold treaty requirements outside of Korea.
That means the U.S. will not use anti-personnel land mines outside of the Korean peninsula, will not "assist, encourage or induce" anyone outside the peninsula to do so and will move to destroy land mine stocks not required to on the peninsula.
"Even as we take these further steps, the unique circumstances on the Korean Peninsula and our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea preclude us from changing our anti-personnel land mine policy there at this time," the White House said. "We will continue our diligent efforts to pursue solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow us to accede to the Ottawa Convention while ensuring our ability to meet our alliance commitments to the Republic of Korea."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said protecting South Korea from a potential invasion by the North remains a "paramount concern" and that until the U.S. is able to join the treaty it would work toward its "spirit and humanitarian aims."
The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "fully supports" the changes.
In June, the White House announced that the U.S. would not produce or acquire anti-personnel munitions that do not comply with the Ottawa treaty.