We are approaching the 45th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War as well as the general end of the wars in Indochina.
But most of a half century later, brave young women are busy scouring the Vietnamese countryside acre by acre, field by field, searching for landmines and various sorts of un-exploded ordinance. When they find ordinance, much of it they must dispose of it themselves. They have equipment with which they can safely detonate smaller munitions. Special teams and equipment must be summoned for larger munitions such as large bombs.
It is estimated that fully 10% of the ordinance dropped by the United States Air Force and United States Navy aircraft failed to explode on impact. 80 million tons of munitions were dropped, meaning that at least 8 million tons of live munitions are spread over Vietnam. And on top of that, there are the many landmines that were laid.
Quang Tri province should be clear of UXO and landmines by 2025. But it will be much longer for the whole of Vietnam, perhaps another 50 years.
But every field and every acre that is cleared is land that can be brought into use for agriculture or opened to other civil use, without fear of injury or dismemberment.
Similar teams are at work in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Pakistan, Afghanistan and numerous places in Africa and elsewhere where landmines were used in the past.
On January 31, 2020, the Trump administration released a policy which steps back from previous United States policy that would have eventually brought us into compliance with the international norm of prohibiting the production and use of landmines for any purpose. The United States will stop the destruction of its current stock of landmines and could potentially resume production. We may also maintain current stocks by replacing batteries as they expire.
Now the landmines that we would potentially use would be of a non-persistent variety. That means that 30 days after being laid, they should either automatically self destruct or deactivate. However, these systems are far from fool proof and the landmines still retain large degree of danger, even after they supposedly deactivate. And as mentioned, landmines can be taken by the enemy and made into improvised explosive device.
I personally condemn this policy. We should resume the destruction of our current stocks of landmines and commit to no use of landmines. We should sign and ratify the Landmine Treaty (Ottawa Treaty). By doing so, we would honor those brave women who are risking life and limb to rid the world of landmines.