Trump administration to upend Obama-era restrictions on landmines: sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to relax Obama-era restrictions on the U.S. military’s use or acquisition of landmines, two U.S. officials said on Thursday, a move criticized by arms control groups.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision could be announced as early as Friday.

Such a step would underscore the administration’s willingness to upend policies taken by Trump’s Democratic predecessor, in the face of concerns about the dangers of such weaponry to civilians long after conflicts end.

President Barack Obama’s administration said in 2014 that it would no longer produce or otherwise acquire anti-personnel landmines, including to replace existing U.S. stockpiles, which can age to the point where the munitions can longer be used.

The United States also prohibits the use of the weapons outside of the Korean peninsula.

The expected move to relax the restrictions was criticized by arms control proponents.

“The resumption of the use of anti-personnel land mines and continued stockpiling and production of these indiscriminate weapons is militarily unnecessary and dangerous,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said in a statement.

The United States is not a signatory of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which came into force in 1999 and broadly prohibits the development, use and acquisition of anti-personnel landmines.

Washington abides by many provisions of the treaty, which had been endorsed by more than 160 countries.

The Arms Control Association said the United States had not used anti-personnel mines in a substantial way since the Gulf War in 1991. A single anti-personnel mine was used in Afghanistan in 2002.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney