Japan should drop its reluctance and sign a global treaty calling for a total and immediate ban on antipersonnel land mines, Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi said Sept. 19.

Japan reportedly possesses 1 million antipersonnel land mines. The government has not decided whether to sign the treaty, which will be signed at an international conference in Ottawa, Obuchi said. He added that thorough discussions are needed before any decision on signing can be reached.

“It is contradictory for Japan to cooperate in the removal of land mines in Cambodia while simultaneously approving the use of land mines (to defend Japan),” Obuchi told a news conference. A consensus on signing the treaty is not expected to be easily achieved because antipersonnel land mines have long been considered an effective defense for Japan’s long coastline and because neighboring states such as China and Russia are unwilling to sign the treaty.

On Sept. 18, an international conference on land mines in Oslo adopted a final draft of the treaty, which will formally be signed at the Ottawa conference on Dec. 3 and 4. Efforts to conclude the treaty, known as the Ottawa process, were initiated last October by Canada.

The draft treaty prohibits the use, export, production, development and stockpiling of land mines. It obliges signatory nations to dispose of stockpiled mines within four years and to remove within 10 years those already laid.

The United States, which formally participated in the Oslo conference process, rejected the draft because several of its compromise proposals, including a nine-year delay in implementing the treaty, were left out of the final version. Both the U.S. and Japan were reluctant to participate in the Ottawa process because they believed it would have little impact as China and Russia, both major producers of mines, oppose the treaty.

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