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Debate: Landmines in the Korean Demilitarized Zone

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Should the US maintain landmines in the KDZ b/w North and South Korea?

Background and context

Since the Korean war in the 1950s, the United States and South Korea have placed landmines on the border between North and South Korea, in what is called the demilitarized zone, or DMZ. This issue has become relevant in the context of the United States considering joining the Mine Ban Treaty (Ottawa Treaty). See debate article. Joining the treaty, some believe, would make it impossible for the United States to continue to work with South Korea in developing these mines in the DMZ. The question is whether keeping these mines in the DMZ is important, or if joining the mine ban treaty is more important.

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In Korea: Are landmines unnecessary between North and South Korea?

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Yes

  • North Korea's tunnel network under DMZ undermines landmines. North Korea has built an extensive tunnel network underneath the landmines in the DMZ, which would allow its forces to move underneath the mined area unobstructed.[2]
  • Mines in DMZ controlled by S. Korea; unaffected by US joining. Human Rights Campaign: "Letters from US Senators in 2010 to Obama in support of joining the ban addressed two issues raised over the years by those who were hesitant to join the treaty. One is whether land mines would have to be removed from the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The letters note that the mines there are the responsibility of South Korea, not the United States, and that if the United States joins the treaty, mines in the DMZ would not be affected."[3]
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No

  • North Koreans will think twice North Korea's army is 1.5 million strong, with 1 million stationed near the border. If the North attacks, which the chances increased since the Cheanon, they will march toward a minefield so they will think twice when invading. They will be massacred. The only thing standing against the 1 million strong North Korean threat is the minefield. Why should we destroy this vital defense?
  • Defending against North Korean blitzkrieg requires landmines Without it, North Korea‚Äôs million man army could easily cross into South Korea and take Seoul before defences could be organised. South Korea is a key ally of the USA and to join in the ban on landmines would be to betray that ally. The failure of the Ottawa Convention to grant an exception for the Korean peninsula was the key reason for USA non-participation.[4]
  • Landmines in Korea would slow down invasion, thin enemy ranks. "South Korea Extols Some of the Benefits of Land Mines". New York Times. 3 Sept 1997: "Every military expert is sure that the United States and South Korean forces could defeat a North Korean attack without using any land mines. But most of the experts say that to slow a North Korean invasion and hasten its end it would be helpful to lay down new mines as well as rely on existing minefields."
  • Landmines in Korea would force attackers into vulnerable territory. These zones are called "killing zones" in the military. By making it more difficult and potentially costly in terms of lives for aggressors to launch attacks, land-mines - even if not covering the entirety of a border - help deter aggressors.
  • Landmines in the Korean DMZ do not threaten civilians This is an important fact in defense of the United States' policies. It illustrates that the United States uses landmines only for a specific zone in a single country, rather than deploying landmines in a widespread effort. This is important because most of the costs associated with landmines relate to the broad use of them in war zones and civilian areas. The United States is certainly not doing this in Korea. US policy, therefore, is not susceptible to the many arguments against landmines.
  • Removing landmines from the DMZ harder than "no new mines". There is a difference between the United States agreeing to stop producing and deploying land mines in new places and it agreeing to actively remove its existing landmines from the DMZ. Such active removal of landmines is more disruptive to existing US strategic calculus in North Korea. A "no new mines" policy, if anything, is superior.




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Pro/con sources

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