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CHINA and Landmines

China attends anti-mine meeting for first time:
China, the world's biggest stockpiler of anti-personnel landmines, attended a global anti-mine conference for the first time, fueling hopes it may one day sign alandmark treaty banning the weapons. A week-long meeting of' signatories to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty kicked off in Bangkok with a review of the bleak situation in Asia, home to some of the world's most mine-infested countries and its biggest producers and stockpilers.

China began clearing mines along its border with Vietnam last year and reaffirmed its moratorium on exports, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) said in its 2003 Landmine Monitor Report. Of the 18 Asian countries outside the treaty, China, India, Pakistan, North and South Korea and Singapore are major mine producers while Laos, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are heavily mined after years of conflict.

Since the ICBL started its campaign in the early 1990s, the number of landmine casualties worldwide has dropped to about 20,000 per year, from an estimated 26,000 a decade ago. The problem has worsened in Asia in the past 18 months as India and Pakistan planted millions near their borders, the Nepali army and Maoist rebels expanded their use and the Myanmar army and ethnic minority rebels laid more.

Finding the money to clear millions of mines worldwide will be a crucial issue this week. The treaty requires signatories to destroy mines in the ground 10 years after ratifying the pact, but countries like Thailand and Cambodia are falling behind for lack of funds. The US, which reserves the right to produce anti-personnel landmines but has not done so since 1997, has cut funding for international mine action programs in recent years, but remains the biggest single donor. (Reuters 9/17/03).

Cameron Sawyer writes from Moscow;
"Land mines, designed to kill and maim whoever steps on them, regardless whether combatant, non-combatant, man, woman, or child, are truly evil. After the end of the Great War, the world managed to eliminate the use of chemical weapons, but for a few rogue states. In the 1980 s, the world managed to completely eliminate intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe, even though the Cold War was raging. Why can t we manage to ban the use of land mines?"

Why indeed? Apparently some countries don't know evil when they see it.

Ronald Hilton - 10.04.03