Work began Monday to destroy the Self-Defense Forces’ stockpiles of antipersonnel land mines in accordance with the international convention that took effect in March. About 100 officials, including Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, Shiga Gov. Yoshitsugu Kunimatsu and Defense Agency Chief Tsutomu Kawara, attended the day’s ceremonies at a gymnasium at an Air Self-Defense Force base. The mines were destroyed at a domed plant operated by Asahi Chemical Industries Co. in the town of Shinasahi, Shiga Prefecture. “Our country will continue to be actively involved in international society in realizing the total ban on the mines and removing them as well as supporting victims,” Obuchi said at the ceremony. The government plans to destroy before February 2003 about 1 million antipersonnel mines. It will keep 15,000 mines for use in removal training. As foreign minister in December 1997, Obuchi signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The convention was signed by 130 countries at a landmark meeting in Ottawa. Japan submitted its ratification to the United Nations in September 1998, becoming the 45th nation to do so. The convention calls for the elimination of all mines within 10 years.

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