United States

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 19 October 2015


The United States of America (US) has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty.

The US expressed its intent to accede to the treaty in September 2014, when President Barack Obama said, “We’re going to continue to work to find ways that would allow us to ultimately comply fully and accede to the Ottawa Convention.”[1]

During 2014, the US announced new landmine policy measures banning US production and acquisition of antipersonnel mines as well as halting US use of the weapons outside of the Korean Peninsula. Officials also articulated a new aspiration for the US to accede to the treaty, with one describing the fact “we are now articulating our desire to be able to accede” as a notable policy adjustment.[2]

On the occasion of the 4 April 2015 International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Secretary of State John Kerry said the 2014 policy steps "reflect America’s continued commitment to a powerful global humanitarian movement that has helped prevent the loss of innocent lives” and said they have “brought us one step closer to the goal of a world free from anti-personnel landmines.”[3] Kerry affirmed, “we continue our efforts to pursue solutions that may ultimately allow us to accede to…the international treaty that prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.”

The US has reiterated its 2014 landmine policy several times since it was announced. At the Convention on Conventional Weapons in November 2014, the US said it will continue to find ways that will enable it to comply with and ultimately accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.[4] In late March 2015, the US reported that it is “aligning our APL [antipersonnel landmine] policy outside the Korean Peninsula with the key requirements of the Ottawa Convention.”[5] A Department of State fact sheet issued for 2015 Mine Action Day referred to the “ultimate goal” of US accession to the Mine Ban Treaty.[6]

The 2014 policy was announced in two parts. A 23 September 2014 policy announcement committed the US to not use antipersonnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula and not to assist, encourage, or induce other nations to use, stockpile, produce, or transfer antipersonnel mines outside of Korea.[7] This followed a 27 June 2014 policy foreswearing future production or acquisition of antipersonnel mines that also announced a Defense Department study or “high fidelity modeling and simulation effort” of alternatives to antipersonnel mines to “ascertain how to mitigate the risks associated with the loss” of antipersonnel mines.[8]

The 2014 policy announcement followed more than two decades of efforts by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and NGOs organized under the US Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL). The US was the first country 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 it 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.[9]

It is unclear if President Obama will announce further measures before leaving office in January 2017. The USCBL has urged President Obama to prepare and send the accession package for the Mine Ban Treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent.[10]

It is not known how the 2014 landmine policy will be codified, but previous landmine policies announced in 1996, 1998, and 2004 were all issued as presidential directives.

Since the Mine Ban Treaty’s Second Review Conference in Cartagena in 2009, the US has attended every Meeting of States Parties as an observer, as well as the Third Review Conference in Maputo in June 2014 and intersessional meetings in June 2015.

On 11 December 2014, the US abstained from voting on UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 69/34 calling for universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, as it has done since 1997. It was one of only 17 countries to abstain.

The US is 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 26 March 2015, as required under Article 13. The report states that the 2014 policy steps taken by the US “are not required under Amended Protocol II” and confirms that antipersonnel mines stockpiled for use in Korea “remain compliant with the technical specifications required” of the protocol.[11]


The Monitor has long reported that the last confirmed US use of antipersonnel mines was in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991.[12] However, as part of the June 27 policy announcement, the US acknowledged using one antipersonnel mine in Afghanistan in 2002.[13] There were reports in 2009 and 2010 of US forces in Afghanistan using Claymore directional fragmentation mines.[14] However, these munitions are not prohibited under the Mine Ban Treaty if used in command-detonated mode.[15]

The US continues to stockpile antipersonnel landmines for use in Korea. According to the 2014 policy, “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 landmine policy there at this time.”

Two concerns regarding Korea have emerged as sticking points during the US policy review. One relates to the arrangement for a joint combined command structure that would put a US general in charge of South Korean military forces in the event of active hostilities, and the potential problems that might cause if the US were party to the Mine Ban Treaty but South Korea were not. In October 2014, US and South Korean officials agreed to delay return of wartime control of South Korean forces to its government until those forces are better prepared to deter North Korea.[16] A second concern is the possible need for the US to use antipersonnel mines in the event of an invasion by North Korea.

The landmines already emplaced in and near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea are the responsibility of South Korean forces and not the US. In August 2015, tensions between North and South Korea rose after South Korea and the UN Command in South Korea alleged that North Korea laid antipersonnel landmines in the southern section of the DMZ that maimed two South Korean soldiers on patrol on 4 August.[17] Major General Koo Hong-mo of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff described the mine-laying incident as “unthinkable for a normal military.”[18]

Numerous retired military officers have questioned the utility of antipersonnel landmines in South Korea and elsewhere, citing the overwhelming technological superiority of other weapons in the US-South Korean arsenal in comparison with North Korea’s as sufficient to compensate for not using mines. In addition, a former commander of US forces in South Korea, the late Lt. Gen. James Hollingsworth, said in 1997 that antipersonnel landmines’ “minimal” utility to US forces is “offset by the difficulty…[they] pose to our brand of mobile warfare…Not only civilians, but US armed forces, will benefit from a ban on landmines. US forces in Korea are no exception.”[19]

The need for the Department of Defense study has been questioned by the USCBL, which stated that for more than a decade “the US has spent more than one billion dollars on the development and production of systems that could be considered alternatives to antipersonnel mines.”[20] A New York Times editorial on the 2014 policy observed, “the Pentagon could easily draw up plans for South Korea that exclude American landmines.”[21]


US law has prohibited all antipersonnel mine exports since 23 October 1992, through a series of multi-year extensions of the moratorium.[22]

Before 1992, the US exported antipersonnel landmines including more than 5.6 million antipersonnel mines to 38 countries between 1969 and 1992. Deminers in at least 28 mine-affected countries have reported the presence of US-manufactured antipersonnel mines, including non-self-destructing and self-destructing/self-deactivating types.


The last US antipersonnel mines were produced in 1997.[23] The US prohibited production of antipersonnel mines in 2014. Under the policy, the US has foresworn future production or acquisition of antipersonnel landmines.[24] Officials also said the Defense Department would conduct a detailed study of alternatives to antipersonnel mines and the impact of making no further use of the weapon. No more information has been released on the study or its status, as of October 2015.

No victim-activated munitions have been funded in the procurement or the research and development budgets of the US Armed Services or Defense Department in years. Related programs on the XM-7 Spider Networked Munition and the IMS Scorpion once had the potential for victim-activated features (thereby making them antipersonnel mines as defined by the Mine Ban Treaty), but were made to be strictly “man-in-the-loop” or command-detonated and therefore permissible under the treaty.[25]


As part of the 2014 policy announcements, the Department of Defense disclosed that the US has an “active stockpile of just more than 3 million anti-personnel mines in the inventory.”[26] This represents a significant reduction from the previous total reported in 2002 of approximately 10.4 million antipersonnel mines.[27]

The US stockpile consists mostly of remotely-delivered mines that are scattered over wide areas by aircraft or tube artillery and equipped with self-destruct features designed to blow the mine up after a pre-set period of time, as well as self-deactivating features. The active stockpile consists of the following types and quantities:

US stockpiles of antipersonnel mines in 2010[28]

[quantity of antipersonnel in each]

Inside the US

Outside the US







M692 Artillery Delivered Antipersonnel Mine [36]





M74 Ground Emplaced Mine Scattering System [5]










Volcano (in M87 dispenser only) [1]





M86 Pursuit Deterrent Munition [1]





M131 Modular Pack Mine System [4]










Grand Total


Note: * The accounting for GATOR includes CBU-89 [22], CBU-104 [22], and CBU-78 [15] air-dropped bombs.

The shelf-life of existing antipersonnel mines stockpiled by the US decreases over time in part because batteries embedded inside the mines deteriorate as they age. The new policy precludes the US from extending or modifying the life of the batteries inside the existing stockpile.[29]

A Defense Department spokesperson stated in 2014 that the existing antipersonnel mine stocks “will start to decline in their ability to be used about [sic]—starting in about 10 years. And in 10 years after that, they’ll be completely unusable.”[30]

Stockpile destruction

The 2014 policy commits the US to destroy its antipersonnel mine stockpiles “not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.” In April 2015, Secretary of State Kerry said the US “will begin destroying its anti-personnel landmine stockpiles not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.”[31]

All US stocks of weapons containing antipersonnel mines as well as munitions containing a mix of both antipersonnel and antivehicle mines that are not required for Korea must be removed from stocks located in the US, on supply ships, and in storage facilities overseas, then transported to a destruction facility.

Greater transparency is needed on the types and quantities of antipersonnel landmines to be destroyed and their inventory status as well as on implementation of the 2014 policy’s stockpile destruction requirement, including timeline and cost.[32] While no overview is publicly available, it appears that US antipersonnel mines stocks not required for Korea are being destroyed.

In December 2014, the US Army announced that Expal USA—the US subsidiary of Spanish defense company Expal—had won a contract to destroy Gator and Volcano mines at its facility in Marshall, Texas.[33] The contract’s estimated completion date is June 2020 according to Maxam, the multinational company that owns Expal.[34]

To destroy the ADAM mines, the US Army contracted General Atomics to build a special “munitions cryofracture demilitarization facility” at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma.[35] The mines are destroyed through disassembly and then a cryofracture process that “freezes, fractures, punches, and exposes the energetic material prior to delivering it to the incineration system,” a rotary kiln furnace.[36]

Since 2011, at least 96 M86 Pursuit Deterrent Munitions and 40 M74 antipersonnel mines as well as other “problematic munitions” have been destroyed in a static detonation chamber built to destroy US stocks of chemical weapons.[37]


In 2011, the US said a small quantity of “persistent mines” (non self-destructing) had been retained for demining and counter-mine testing and training.[38]

[1] Office of the Press Secretary, “Remarks by the President at Clinton Global Initiative,” The White House, 23 September 2014.

[2] Office of the Press Secretary, “Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Josh Earnest en route Joint Base Andrews, 6/27/2014,” The White House, 27 June 2014.

[3] Statement by John Kerry, US Secretary of State, 3 April 2015.

[4] Statement of the US, CCW Amended Protocol II Annual Meeting, 12 November 2014. Notes by HRW.

[7] The September 23 landmine policy announcement was made by President Obama in an address at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York and detailed in a White House fact sheet. See, Office of the Press Secretary, “Remarks by the President at Clinton Global Initiative,” The White House, 23 September 2014; and Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: Changes to U.S. Anti-Personnel Landmine Policy,” The White House, 23 September 2014.

[8] The June 27 landmine policy announcement was made by the US ambassador to Mozambique at the Mine Ban Treaty’s Third Review Conference and detailed in a White House fact sheet. Statement by Ambassador Douglas Griffiths, Mine Ban Treaty Third Review Conference, Maputo, 27 June 2014; and Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: Changes to U.S. Anti-Personnel Landmine Policy,” The White House, 27 June 2014.

[9] 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.

[10] Letter to President Barack Obama, USCBL, 12 September 2014.

[12] In 1991, in Iraq and Kuwait the US used 117,634 antipersonnel mines, mostly air-delivered. 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.

[13] “And since the Ottawa Convention came into force in 1999, we are – or since 1991, excuse me – we are aware of only one confirmed operational employment by U.S. military forces, a single munition in Afghanistan in 2002.” US Department of State, “Daily Press Briefing: June 27, 2014,” 27 June 2014.

[14] CJ 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.

[15] The use of Claymore mines in command-detonated mode, usually electrical or shock tube (non-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.

[16] Choe Sang-Hun, “U.S. and South Korea Agree to Delay Shift in Wartime Command,” New York Times, 24 October 2014.

[17] USCBL Web Post, “New mine-laying in Korea condemned,” 10 August 2015.

[18] Jethro Mullen and Kathy Novak, “South Korea: Propaganda broadcasts at North to resume after landmines,” CNN, 10 August 2015.

[19] HRW, Arms Project, and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, “In Its Own Words: The U.S. Army and Antipersonnel Mines in the Korean and Vietnam Wars,” July 1997.

[20] Letter to President Barack Obama, USCBL, 12 September 2014.

[21]A Step Closer to Banning Landmines,” The New York Times, 26 September 2014.

[22] On 26 December 2007, the comprehensive US moratorium on the export of antipersonnel mines was extended for six years until 2014. Public Law 110-161, Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Section 634(j), 26 December 2007, p. 487.

[24] The June 27 landmine policy announcement was made by the US ambassador to Mozambique at the Mine Ban Treaty’s Third Review Conference and detailed in a White House fact sheet. Statement by Ambassador Douglas Griffiths, Mine Ban Treaty Third Review Conference, Maputo, 27 June 2014; and Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: Changes to U.S. Anti-Personnel Landmine Policy,” The White House, 27 June 2014.

[25] 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.

[26] “We have an active stockpile of just over 3 million anti-personnel mines in the inventory.” US Department of Defense, “Department of Defense Press Briefing by Rear Adm. Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room,” 27 June 2014.

[27] Information provided by the US Armed Services in Spring/Summer 2002, cited in US General Accounting Office, “GAO-02-1003: MILITARY OPERATIONS: Information on U.S. use of Land Mines in the Persian Gulf War,” September 2002, Appendix I, pp. 39–43. See also: US entry in International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Landmine Monitor Report 2009.

[28] Data on types and quantities from a 2010 Department of Defense document on file at HRW. Also listed in this document are 7.2 million antipersonnel mines that are “Unserviceable and Suspended” (190,458), “Former WRSA-K [War Reserve Stocks for Allies – Korea]” (520,050), and “demil” (6,528,568), which presumably means in the demilitarization account awaiting destruction.

[29] A US official confirmed to HRW that the US would not extend the shelf-life of existing systems, for example, by replacing their batteries. Meeting with US Delegation, Mine Ban Treaty Third Review Conference, Maputo, 27 June 2014. Unofficial notes by HRW.

[30] US Department of Defense, “Department of Defense Press Briefing by Rear Adm. Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room,” 27 June 2014. In 2010, the Department of Defense indicated that the batteries in self-destructing and self-deactivating mines have a shelf-life of 36 years and estimated that the shelf-life of batteries in the existing stockpile of antipersonnel mines would expire between 2014 and 2033. According to a 2010 Department of Defense document on file at HRW.

[31] Statement by John Kerry, US Secretary of State, 3 April 2015.

[33] US Army, Award Notice on “Conventional Ammunition Demilitarization,” 22 December 2014. In July 2010, the US Army issued a notice for contractors “for potential demilitarization” of the munitions. US Army, Notice on “Family of Scatterable Munitions (FASCAM) Demil,” 13 July 2010.

[34] MAXAM Press Release, “EXPAL USA receives $156 million U.S. army contract,” 16 June 2015. See also, LinkedIn, “Expal USA,” undated.

[35] General Atomics, “McAlester Army Ammunition Plant,” undated.

[36] McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, Operations Permit #6213822798 – Section III-1, 2013.

[37] Presentation by Timothy K. Garrett, Site Project Manager, Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, “Preparing to Process Problematic Munitions,” undated.

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