Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
60, Sajik-ro 8-gil
Jongno-gu, Seoul 03172
Republic of Korea
RE: Mine clearance in the DMZ and the Mine Ban Treaty
Dear Minister Kang Kyung-wha,
I am writing on behalf of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, regarding recent initiatives to demine certain areas of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. While we recognize as a positive step the joint effort with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to remove mines from the Joint Security Area and Arrow Head Hill, we note that those areas represent only a small fraction of the total landmine contaminated land in the DMZ.
We call on the Republic of Korea to undertake more comprehensive clearance initiatives in the DMZ and elsewhere in the Republic of Korea. As representatives of international civil society groups working on landmine issues, we stand ready to support your efforts aimed toward a mine-free Korean Peninsula.
The Republic of Korea stated for the first time in October 2017 that it was “fully committed to the objectives and purposes” of the “Ottawa” Mine Ban Treaty. However, the South Korean government continues to maintain the situation on the Korean Peninsula prevents it from acceding to the treaty.
We note that in recent decades, states have fought a wide range of conflicts, ranging from low to high intensity in a variety of environments, and have demonstrated that it is possible to employ alternative strategies, tactics, and weaponry without having to resort to antipersonnel mines.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty on March 1, 1999, as well as its milestone Fourth Review Conference.
To date, the treaty remains one of the most successful humanitarian disarmament treaties. With 164 countries on board, and many others in de facto compliance, the treaty has nearly eliminated the production, trade, and use of antipersonnel landmines by states, thus contributing to saving people’s lives and limbs every day. The Republic of Korea has an opportunity to strengthen the international norm against landmines by joining the treaty or, at a minimum, committing to actions in the spirit of the treaty. Such positive actions could include voting in favor of United Nations General Assembly resolutions expressing support for the treaty, attending meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty, or announcing a moratorium on production or use of landmines.
We encourage the South Korean government to take advantage of the window of opportunity created by last year’s agreement to clear portions of the DMZ, and immediately move to expand clearance initiatives to the entirety of the Korean peninsula. Additionally, we strongly encourage the Republic of Korea to participate in the Mine Ban Treaty’s Fourth Review Conference in Oslo, Norway on November 24 to 29, 2019.
We appreciate your consideration of these important recommendations and would be happy to meet with the Republic of Korea’s delegation to the Mine Ban Treaty meeting this November.
Executive Director, Arms Division
Executive Director, Asia Division