The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden said Tuesday it will limit the use of anti-personnel landmines to the Korean Peninsula, effectively reinstating an earlier policy that was loosened under the previous administration led by Donald Trump.
"After conducting a comprehensive policy review, the United States is joining the vast majority of countries around the world in committing to limit the use of anti-personnel landmines," the White House said.
The U.S. government will also ban the development, production and acquisition of the explosive devices prohibited under the Ottawa Convention, also known as the anti-personnel mine ban treaty, and will make "diligent efforts" to pursue alternative weapons that would ultimately allow Washington to accede to the convention, the White House added.
"These changes reflect the president's belief that these weapons have disproportionate impact on civilians, including children, long after fighting has stopped," it said.
But the White House noted that the "unique circumstances" on the Korean Peninsula, where the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, preclude the United States from changing anti-personnel landmine policy in the area.
"The security of our ally the Republic of Korea will continue to be a paramount concern," the White House said, referring to South Korea's official name.
The United States has around 3 million landmines in its stockpile and plans to destroy those that are not required for the defense of South Korea, according to a State Department official.
The United States does not maintain any minefields in South Korea or on the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas as a result of the war, the official said.
In 2020, the Trump administration lifted a ban on the U.S. military using anti-personnel landmines outside the Korean Peninsula, in a reversal of a policy introduced by his predecessor Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president.
At the time, the White House under Trump said in a statement that the restriction could put American forces "at a severe disadvantage" in conflict against adversaries.
According to the website of the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs, many people have died or lost limbs from stepping on landmines. The incidents occur mostly in countries at peace, and the majority of victims are civilians.