Tue, Dec 20, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Lawmakers propose ban on anti-personnel mines

EXPLOSIVE ISSUE Legislators from Kinmen and Matsu want to completely ban mines nationwide, but the MND says such weapons could be crucial for thwarting China

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature yesterday examined a bill to ban anti-personnel mines, while the Ministry of National Defense (MND) expressed the hope that the bill would include a clause allowing the military to use mines to fend off a possible Chinese attack.

Two lawmakers from outlying islands, New Party Legislator Wu Cheng-tian (吳成典) of Kinmen and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Tsao Erh-chung (曹爾忠) of Matsu, proposed a law aimed at removing the more than 100,000 anti-personnel mines on the two islands.

"To end the outlying islands' residents' nightmare of having to `sleep with land mines' for decades, and also to promote Taiwan's international image, we proposed a bill on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling and production of anti-personnel mines, and also on the total destruction and clearance of all mines in the country," Wu said at a legislative defense committee meeting yesterday.

"Although Taiwan's international status has not enabled it to join the Ottawa Treaty, which has been signed by 154 countries and is an international treaty to ban landmines, Taiwan can contribute to the international community by establishing such a law," Wu added.

While Wu and Tsao's proposed bill asked the nation to completely ban anti-personnel mines, KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-min (帥化民) said an anti-personnel mine bill should not totally rule out Taiwan using mines as weapons in a war.

"Mines are still inexpensive and useful weapons for blocking an enemy landing on the nation's territory," Shuai added.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) and Deputy Minister of National Defense Hou Shou-yeh (霍守業) also supported adding a clause in the bill that would allow the nation to produce and use anti-personnel mines if it faced a "serious threat" from China or if a war broke out.

The bill proposed by Wu and Tsao would require the nation to clear more than 100,000 land mines in eight years.

Hou said it would be impossible to totally clear that many mines in that timespan, considering budget limitations and technical difficulties.

"The MND would need more time to fund the roughly NT$4.2 billion (US$125 million) budget to clear all mines. And because the tide has been shifting the mines on shorelines, it would take a long time to locate and clear these mines," Hou added.

In view of the different opinions, the committee said further negotiations will be conducted.

Taiwan's military scattered more than 100,000 mines in 152 minefields on Kinmen and Matsu after the KMT fled to Taiwan in 1949. There have been 102 mine-related incidents involving local residents.

Two technicians from Zimbabwe died in April in an explosion, as they cleared a minefield in Kinmen. The foreign technicians were hired by the Kinmen government to clear a minefield before construction began on a reservoir there.

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