FOR 15 years, the United States has balked at signing a global treaty banning land mines. President Obama now says the United States will no longer produce such mines or replace expired ones, and will move toward signing the treaty at an unspecified date.
That isn’t decisive. America’s stockpile of 10 million mines will gradually diminish. But every year, land mines kill or injure 4,000 people a year, half of them children. Still, that number is far lower than the 26,000 land-mine injuries in 1999, the year the treaty took effect.
The treaty would require the United States to destroy its mine stockpiles in four years and clear the areas it has mined in 10 years. Pentagon officials say land mines are essential for deterrence in areas such as the Korean Demilitarization Zone, but the treaty does not affect anti-vehicle or command-detonated mines.
Thirty-six other countries have not signed the treaty, including China, Russia, Iran, Israel, and Egypt. Mr. Obama should pressure his counterparts to join him in signing the treaty, then refer it to the Senate for ratification. The sooner land mines can be replaced with other anti-troop deterrents, the better.