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NCC, CWS CALL ON U.S., VIETNAM TO JOIN MINE BAN TREATY

November 27, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – The National Council of Churches and its service and witness ministry, Church World Service, are urging U.S. President Bill Clinton and Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong to join the Mine Ban Treaty in follow up to their recent historic meeting.

"This would be a perfect moment for the United States and Vietnam to join the treaty to ban mines," said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. "President Clinton has just concluded an historic visit to Vietnam, and spoke there about this issue during the U.S.-Vietnamese meetings in Hanoi."

An estimated 3.5 million landmines in Vietnam continue to victimize more than 2,000 persons per year. President Clinton met with government officials and non-governmental organizations engaged in mine clearance and mine awareness while in Hanoi.

"The NCC and its service and witness ministry, Church World Service, call on U.S. President Bill Clinton and Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong to join the Mine Ban Treaty in an effort to help end the global scourge of landmines," said Dr. Edgar.

Landmines were responsible for 33 percent of all U.S. casualties and 28 percent of U.S. deaths during the Vietnam War, according to the Center for Defense Information. Since the end of the war in 1975, more than 38,000 people have been killed and 64,000 injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance. Landmines have turned from a weapon of war to a weapon against development.

"Church World Service has seen firsthand the impact of landmines on development," said the Rev. John McCullough, Executive Director of Church World Service.

"The presence of, or fear of, landmines in an area has a devastating impact," he added. "It robs people of their basic livelihood because routine activities like getting water, grazing animals or planting and harvesting crops become high risk activities. In addition to its current financial support for demining, education, and rehabilitation in Vietnam, the United States should join with Vietnam in sharing an act of reconciliation and healing by acceding to the Treaty."

"The National Council of Churches has policy calling for a complete ban on landmines and for the U.S. government to enact such a measure," said Dr. Edgar, "Especially in light of improved U.S. relations with North Korea, this would seem an opportune moment for the Administration to send a strong message to the rest of the global community that such weapons of indiscriminate destruction must be rejected."

"It makes little sense to invest in mine action without addressing the root cause of the problem," said Gina Coplon-Newfield, Physicians for Human Rights, Coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines.

"Both the United States and Vietnam have used, produced and exported antipersonnel mines," she added. "They both bear responsibility for the mine problem not only in Vietnam, but in other countries of the world as well. They both can become part of the global solution by not only engaging in mine clearance and mine victim assistance, but by banning this indiscriminate weapon entirely."

By acceding to the Mine Ban Treaty, each country would immediately begin steps to outlaw production and exportation, and destroy any stockpiles of antipersonnel landmines. Presently the United States and Vietnam are two of only 16 countries that are still classified as landmine producers.

Vietnam has confirmed production in the past and may still be producing but claims that it will never export landmines. The United States reserves the right to produce but has not done so since 1998 and has a legal export ban in place. Although the size of Vietnam’s landmine stockpile is unknown, the United States continues to maintain the third largest stockpile in the world with 11.3 million mines.

The United States and Vietnam each has acknowledged its intent to sign the Treaty. The U.S. Administration has indicated it will not sign until alternatives are found, not expected before 2006. To date, 139 countries have joined the Treaty, of which 107 have ratified. The United States and Vietnam are two of only 54 countries worldwide not to have joined the Treaty.

Church World Service is a partner with indigenous churches and organizations in more than 80 countries, many of whom confront the landmine crisis in their daily work to overcome poverty and powerlessness. Church World Service and the National Council of Churches are members of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines, a collation of over 400 medical, religious, human rights, veteran, peace, and other organizations.

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U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines

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