View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 16, 1996
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY  
                  SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM PERRY,                
                Room 450, Old Executive Office Building

4:35 P.M. EDT

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You have just heard the President announce an important decision that will strengthen American leadership around the globe. This decision reflects our determination to eliminate these deadly instruments of terror which claim some 500 innocent lives every week.

The decision also, though, reflects America's global responsibilities and the concern that each of us has for the safety of our soldiers and the people that they protect. The land mine crisis has commanded this administration's attention from the very start. In 1993 the United States extended for three years our unilateral moratorium on land mine exports. In 1994, we spearheaded a successful resolution that the United Nations ban exports of the most dangerous kinds of land mines.

We've provided training, equipment and funds to help those nations most threatened by mines, and today's decision will expand that assistance.

In 1994 the President also dedicated our nation to the goal of eventually eliminating all anti-personnel land mines. Today we have a road map for achieving that objective. The President has asked me and his foreign policy team to move forward on that road map as rapidly as possible. As the President said, we will propose a resolution at the 51st General Assembly this fall calling for an international agreement to ban all forms of anti-personnel mines. We will begin to consult immediately with our allies on the best way to achieve this.

One possible approach would be to proceed through the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. That's where we succeeded in negotiating a chemical weapons convention, and that is where we're moving forward toward agreement this year on a comprehensive nuclear test ban.

I am personally determined to follow through on this commitment as soon as possible, mindful of some of the things I've seen and experiences that I've had. I saw the devastation that land mines can cause when I visited Cambodia last year. That is a nation where our demining program is saving many thousands of lives; indeed, I was proud to present to our demining team an award in Phnom Penh.

In February of this year, this problem was also brought home to me in Bosnia where land mines pose an ever-present danger to our soldiers and other servicemen who are there.

Bosnia makes it clear that these weapons do not cease to kill when peace treaties are signed and the guns of war fall silent. These anti-personnel land mines do not distinguish between civilians and combatants; indeed, they probably kill more children than soldiers. They frustrate our foreign policy goals because they make it so much harder for nations to move from conflict to reconstruction and growth. It's very clear to me that an international ban on land mines cannot happen without American leadership, which of course is so true of many issues in the world today.

Today, the President has put America firmly behind a responsible program to rid the world of these hidden killers once and for all. And with today's announcement, I am more confident than ever that this important goal can be achieved.

Thank you. Secretary Perry.

SECRETARY PERRY: I'd like to express my personal grief at the death of my friend and my trusted colleague, Mike Boorda, and offer my profound sympathy to his wife, Betty, and their family.

Admiral Boorda was a sailor's sailor. At every stage of his career, he put the interests of sailors and their families first. Mike Boorda helped make our Navy the best that the world has ever seen. I relied deeply on his advice. I loved his spirit. And I admired his love for the Navy and its people. His untimely death is a loss to the Navy, the Department of Defense, to the nation, as well as to his family.

Let me talk about the anti-personnel land mines. I and all of the Chiefs strongly support the President's new policy. Indeed, we recommended it to him. We are all appalled by the carnage caused each year by the millions of anti-personnel land mines that are a residue of civil wars and regional conflicts. And, therefore, we seek to find a way to end this scourge.

But we also are responsible for preparing and executing our nation's war plans with maximum effectiveness and minimum casualties to the U.S. forces. This objective to eliminate anti-personnel land mines, therefore, is partially in conflict with one of our most critical war plans, namely, the war plan to defend Korea against a mass assault.

North Koreans have more than a million infantry troops amassed just north of the DMZ -- the Demilitarized Zone. Many of these are within 50 to 100 miles of Seoul. The metropolitan area of Seoul has a population in excess of 10 million inhabitants. And, therefore, our contingency war plan is designed to stop a North Korea attack before it gets to Seoul.

Today, in order to execute that war plan, it requires the use of anti-personnel mines -- indeed, almost a million of them. These are necessary to delay and to disrupt the mass infantry attack long enough for our air power to get in and be fully effective. If we simply remove those anti-personnel land mines, it is likely that North Korea could overrun Seoul before we could finally turn the invasion around. Overrunning Seoul would entail the loss of tens of thousands of soldiers and perhaps hundreds of thousands of civilians. And, therefore, we see this as an unacceptable risk.

The proposed plan, therefore, that we made to the President protects the right to use anti-personnel land mines in Korea until, first, the possibility that the threat of a mass infantry attack is removed, or we are able to achieve alternative ways to affect our tactics of delaying and disrupting that attack.

I should emphasize that we, myself and the Chiefs, are all anxious to remove this exception. And we will move vigorously on both parallel paths that I have described to you so that we can remove that exception as soon as possible.

I'd like to take the opportunity now to introduce General David Jones, former Chief of the Staff of the Air Force and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dave, could you stand up for a moment so they can see you? Thank you.

As you know, General Jones expressed his support for the elimination of anti-personnel land mines, and we consulted very closely with Dave as we developed our new policy. And he has supported the approach that we have taken. I've invited him to come today so that he would be available to answer your questions along with myself, Secretary Christopher and the Chiefs.

And with that, then, I'd like to open the floor so we can entertain a few questions.

Q Sir, what is the response of the administration to the assertions by nongovernmental organizations, humanitarian groups, other member states of the U.N., that the policy is still troublesome because of the inherent indiscriminate that mines has not changed. Whether it be dumb mines or smart mines, you still would not be able to distinguish between a combatant and a civilian and that smart mines will not address that issue.

SECRETARY PERRY: It does address that issue. One has to look not only at the way the mines operate, but the way they are employed. The dumb mines are traditionally laid in the ground and left there for weeks or months or years. And it's after the war battles are over that they do their damage to civilians.

Smart mines not only are self-destructing after a few hours or a few days -- depending on the nature, depending on how it's set. But, even more importantly, they are not spread around indiscriminately just as a sort of general stopping of assault. They are only spread specifically to stop a particular advance that's coming. So the way of using the smart mines and their self-destruct feature dramatically changed the situation.

Nevertheless, let me emphasize what the President has said. Even with that, we are prepared to give up the smart mines as part of an international agreement. And we believe that may be necessary to get the international agreement, which is a major step forward.

Q Secretary Perry, could you give us an idea of the types of technologies or operational changes that could substitute for the use of mines and barrier operations and channeling?

SECRETARY PERRY: There are three different categories of technology which we are working on now. The first of them, which is a bit of a digression from your question, is the technology to detect and destroy mines -- very critical. We have a major program underway in the United States, centered at Fort Belvoir, for developing new technology for doing that. That has been underway for some time.

There are a dozen different techniques, some of which are in very advanced states of development. We are introducing those to our own forces. What the President has asked us to do is to also make these widely available in the international community so we get behind an effort to help eliminate and get rid of the mines -- these millions and millions of mines that are already planted.

The technologies for substituting the mines, which is the question you asked, fall in two categories. The generic ways of shaping the battlefield differently than you shape it with mines. As was described, the principle purpose of the anti-personnel mines is to delay and disrupt, slow down amassed infantry events. There are other ways of doing that, too, that have to do with tactics, techniques and other weapons.

That broad approach involves changes across the board in the way we fight battle -- in tactics and doctrine as well as in systems. More specifically, we can look for devices that do the specific job that anti-personnel mines do without the residual and very undesirable side effects, and the most promising techniques in that area fall in the category of non-lethal technologies -- technologies which slow and disrupt an infantry advance without killing. For a variety of reasons, we have R&D underway in that field, and we'll continue -- under this program, we will accelerate that technology.

Q Secretary Christopher, your announcement today includes a pledge to try to persuade other nations to foreswear their use of mines. But isn't our own position in that regard undercut by our reserving the right to use them not only in Korea, but wherever we else we consider it in our supreme national interest?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Not at all. I think that what the President has done today is to give us a destination and a road map, give us an opportunity for the United States to lead. This is a balanced approach, taking into account our responsibility to get rid of land mines, but also our responsibilities for the defense in Korea.

Korea is an international operation, I remind you, a United Nations commitment. It's probably the most dangerous border in the world, a unique situation. So I don't think our leadership is going to be handicapped by this balanced approach that the President has given us. It enables the United States to lead in the confidence that we can get something done.

Canada has scheduled a meeting this fall, a conference this fall in which we'll be consulting with them, and then we'll, as I said in my statement, be considering other possible fora to move this forward, particularly the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. But I think the fact that the United States is prepared to take the lead here, to try to organize it internationally will, in the long run, make the difference.

SECRETARY PERRY: I would only add to that, that we do seek to remove the exception for Korea as soon as practical.

Q Secretary Christopher, just following up on that, on the Korean Peninsula, Secretary Perry mentioned that the United States will move vigorously on the parallel paths of finding alternatives tactically to halt the invasion, and also to remove the threat. I wonder, since the President's declaration on Cheju Island with Kim Young Sam, has there been any progress in getting the North Koreans on board, the four-party talks idea?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Yes. We see some progress here. First, the Chinese have indicated to us that they thought the proposal is reasonable and that they will participate if the North Koreans do. The North Koreans have asked for further information. They have shown a serious interest in the proposal. I think that is one of the most promising avenues for enabling us to eliminate, as Secretary Perry says, the exception, because if we could reach a peace agreement, if we could reach a situation where the threat from North Korea was diminished, obviously we would be able to take another look at the situation. So the matter that was proposed by the President when he was on Cheju Island is still alive, and we're pressing it forward under difficult circumstances, but we are nevertheless pressing forward. And we are hopeful on making progress.

Q Mr. Secretary, what's the international reaction to the idea of a ban? And can you explain, would every nation -- I mean, how widespread does the acceptance have to be of the idea of a ban before the United States and other countries would foreswear any land mines?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, it's early days, Terry, but, you know, this is an experience that we've been through before -- chemical weapons convention, the activities now with respect to a comprehensive test ban. I think if we can move first, perhaps, to get the industrialized countries in support of this ban and then broaden out to the nonaligned countries, it's a long, difficult negotiation in most cases. But we've been through that before. We have procedures for moving on it. We have a forum in Geneva. I think the international reaction will be a positive one.

If I could just give a little reference to a longer time frame. A decade ago, land mines were fully accepted around the world as an instrument of warfare. I heard no pleas at all. Starting in about 1990, this particular kind of weaponry began to be targeted for being outlawed or put to one side.

And I must say, in the last six years, great progress has been made in first alerting the international community to the problem of land mines, and then to begin to take some action. This is a difficult evolution, indeed, kind of a revolution in how land mines are viewed. But in the broad stream of history, it's going rather rapidly. And I think the President's decision today will give it a very strong push. And that's our intention.

Q Ambassador, how do you think this will play out in the United Nations? Are you expecting a vote this fall?

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Let me say that we have actually done pretty well in the last three years at the U.N. First, with a resolution on the moratorium, an export moratorium, which was passed by consensus and, in the last two years, a language that would say the eventual elimination of land mines by consensus was also passed.

I would say, from my experience in New York, that this will go over very well and that we will be able to get a resolution which talks about banning land mines, a global ban, as soon as possible. I think that will be greeted very well and, as Secretary Christopher said, I think the fact that we are taking the lead on this makes an incredible difference in having the other countries join us. So I'm looking forward very much to going up there and making this policy very clear. I think it will be very welcomed. We will have a vote in the Fall.

GENERAL RALSTON: Ladies and gentlemen, while we're setting up a couple of slides here, let me cover in a little more detail the policy that was articulated by the President. The Joint Chiefs have been very much aware of, for some time, the problems that are caused by the unintended consequences of land mines. And we also have the responsibility to make sure that our men and women in uniform are protected. We have tried to strike a balance between those competing interests, and let me describe that in a little more detail.

First of all, let me give you the reasons that we use land mines in the first place. I have three illustrative scenarios here. First, force protection. This is where you would have a U.S. unit on an objective being attacked by a large aggressor. Land mines are being placed to delay this aggression while reinforcements arrive. They can be used as an economy of force measure. While we're attacking this objective, if you don't have a battalion to put over here and to protect the flank, you can replace land mines -- anti-tank and anti-personnel land mines.

Lastly, shaping the battlefield. Land mines can be placed well behind enemy lines while we are advancing on an objective to delay or to disrupt the enemy movement while we bring other weapons to bear on the enemy.

Let me describe in more detail the types of land mines that we're talking about. On your left hand side of the chart are what we call non-self-destructive, dumb land mines. These are small mines that are in place in the ground, and they stay there literally for years waiting for a human-sized object to come by and detonate it. We also have anti-tank land mines. These are not a threat to people. They take great pressures and great weight to set them off.

These are contrasted to our self-destructive or smart land mines that can be in place by artillery. Here's a cartoon of one. It sends out wires in the different directions, and if someone walks by, trips these wires, the mine detonates. They also have smart, anti-tank land mines in artillery shell that fire in place.

Now notice that in excess of 99 percent of these smart land mines blow themselves up within a matter of hours from the time that they are in place. Even if you have a dud rate of one percent, or even if it's greater than one percent, they still deactivate themselves and become inert. They are no longer a mine within 90 days, and that's because they have a battery. That battery is crucial to them being a mine. When that battery goes dead, they are no longer a mine. So a hundred percent either blow themselves up or deactivate within 90 days.

I might add, and one of the things that has not been well understood about our policy, 100 percent of the land mines that are in place by U.S. forces today are of the dumb land mine variety. So with the President's announcement that we are ceasing the use of these land mines, with the exception of Korea, that takes care of the problem. I might add, for example, at Guantanamo Bay, for years we have had dumb anti-personnel land mines to protect our Marines at Guantanamo Bay. As we speak today, those anti-personnel land mines are being removed.

This is an emotional subject -- anti-personnel land mines -- let me explain why. The historical record is mixed concerning anti-personnel land mines. We know that they cause casualties, some enemy and some friendly. We know that they inhibit movement -- enemy and friendly -- and the significance in battle is variable. You will talk to combat-seasoned veterans who will tell you that anti-personnel land mines saved their life. You will also talk to veterans who will tell you that their best friend was killed by an anti-personnel land mine, one of ours. So you have conflicting stories.

We do know that they are fully integrated into our doctrine. They protect our forces, they reduce casualties, they do shape the battlefield, as we talked about, and they do buy time for employment of other weapon systems. Our analysis shows that the greatest benefit of anti-personnel land mines is when they are used in conjunction with anti-tank land mines. If you don't cover the anti-tank mine field with anti-personnel mines, it's very easy for the enemy to go through the mine field, place a charge next to the anti-tank mine, blow it up and continue through.

Without these anti-personnel land mines, therefore, mine fields are very quickly breached. You can partially compensate with more forces or with more weapons, or by giving up terrain. Even with the compensation, though, there is a greater risk, there is more difficulty holding terrain, and there are potentially heavier losses. So it's these competing interests that the Joint Chiefs have struggled with in coming to grips with this policy.

The police, as articulated, again, is immediately cease the use and commence the elimination of the non-self-destructing anti-personnel land mines, except for Korea and for China.

Remember again, that's 100 percent of the ones that we have in place today. And in conjunction with the prompt international agreement, which we will enforce, we will get rid of the self-destructing anti-personnel land mines. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will be required to report to the Secretary of Defense and to the President on an annual basis, recommending if the threat on the Korean Peninsula still justifies, with the exception that we talked about. That is our policy, and I'm prepared to address any questions that you may have.

Q General, Secretary Perry said in his presentation that mines would not be used indiscriminately because they would be placed only in the path of an advancing attack. Does that imply that the use of mines in the future would not be delivered via remotely delivered, i.e., scatterable mines? As you're aware, the recently concluded convention on certain conventional weapons -- protocol conference in Geneva did permit states to use both sorts of delivery means in the future. So will that also be a means that the U.S. will be using in the future?

GENERAL RALSTON: The U.S. will use the remotely delivered scatterable mines, either by air or artillery. Just because they are remotely delivered doesn't mean they are not accurately delivered. And they would be placed only in the avenue of approach of an approaching enemy.

Q If I may follow up. They may not be inaccurately delivered, but won't that make it much harder to record their eventual location and thus make it more difficult for demining if used -- if delivered by remote means?

GENERAL RALSTON: They will still be located, but if you use smart, self-destructing land mines, within a matter of hours -- days at the most -- they are no longer a mine. They have either blown themselves up or they have ceased to exist as a mine. That's the reason that we have zero smart mines in place today. You don't use them until you are in hostilities or imminent hostilities.

Q General, can you entertain a question from the Veterans organization?


Q I represent here today the Korean War Veterans Association and the National Order of Battlefield Commissions. And the one point that seems to me that has not been touched upon, that should be, with respect to the public relations aspect of this in our country is that my recollection in the Korean War is we used very little mines over there. The situation was very fluid. And in World War II, my recollection is that the laying of mines by us was a highly regimented and systematized operation that only the Corps of Engineers could lay mines in most areas where I was, and I was over there for three years, and when they laid the mines they were required to carefully plot all the places that they laid these mines so that later on they could be removed.

Now, if that's the case, it seems to me that if all of these mines that are blowing up people all over the world, by and large, should not be American mines. If that's the case, you might want to comment upon that, because it seems to me it leaves us with relatively clean skirts as compared to other countries that have been involved in warfare.

GENERAL RALSTON: I think that is an accurate description, and I think that is exactly true. But I believe, as the President outlined and as Secretary Perry talked about, we are setting the moral course on this and we have agreed to unilaterally give up these dumb land mines, even though it is not U.S. dumb land mines that are causing the problem around the world. But we are trying to set the example for the rest of the world to follow.

Q Can you give us a sense of the cost implications of today's decision in terms of accelerating development of these various technologies?

GENERAL RALSTON: I can give you a sense -- an order of magnitude of cost for the destruction of the roughly 5 million that the President talked about. That's approximately $10 million. With regard to the cost of the program that we will undertake in terms of alternatives or demining, I can't give you a figure on that today, and the reason being, we had two options here: We could lay out a well-defined program and delay making the policy that was made today; or we could make the policy and work the program in parallel. We chose the latter option. That's being done now. We have tasked the Defense Science Board, who are the experts in this arena, to get back to us in a timely manner on ideas that they may have that will be folded into a program that will be in time to meet the budget submission of this fall.

Q How may activated land mines do you have along DMZ in Korea?

GENERAL RALSTON: Very high number, and I will give you approximately a million.

Q If the indiscriminate mines is what has prompted all this action to date, will there be any attention paid in the future to the implications of continued use of cluster munitions?


Q Or the functional equivalents?

GENERAL RALSTON: What we have confined our policy to today is anti-personnel land mines as defined by the Convention on Conventional Weapons. We have not addressed a policy beyond that.

Thank you.

END 5:07 P.M. EDT