Speed Up Establishment of System that does not Use Inhumane Weapons

It is regrettable that an unfortunate situation is expanding in which the United States has supplied inhumane ammunition and it has begun to be used on the front lines, even if it is to support Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

The Russian aggression that caused this should be criticized again.

The Ukrainian military has been provided with cluster munitions from the United States and has begun to use them in actual combat, for example as shells for howitzers. As the stock of conventional ammunition that the United States has been providing for Ukraine is decreasing, the Ukrainian side has been asking Washington for ammunition supplies.

Cluster munitions are highly lethal because of their mechanism of dispersing a large number of small built-in bombs. They are capable of suppressing a wider area than conventional ammunition.

While Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been hampered by the Russian defense lines and has not yielded significant results, cluster munitions are expected to be effective in breaking through entrenchments and other strongholds established by Russian forces.

The problem is the inhumane nature of cluster munitions. The percentage of undetonated small bombs becoming unexploded ordnance is said to be higher than that of conventional ammunition. For this reason, there have been many cases in which civilians have fallen victim to unexploded ordnance left in large areas after the fighting has ended.

In 2010, an international treaty banning the use and development of cluster munitions, among other purposes, went into effect, with the participation of more than 100 countries, including Japan, Britain, Germany and France. However, the United States, Russia, China and Ukraine have not signed the treaty and are not subject to restrictions under international law.

Russia has accused the Ukrainian military of using cluster munitions, but Russia itself has been firing cluster munitions into Ukrainian urban areas since the beginning of the current invasion. It is Russia that should first stop using them.

On the other hand, when the Ukrainian military uses cluster munitions, it is important to avoid using them in densely populated areas and limit their use to military targets in order to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.

It will also be essential to record the firing status of cluster munitions and work to remove unexploded ordnance after the battle is over. The international community as a whole needs to cooperate in the removal of unexploded ordnance.

U.S. President Joe Biden said that it was a very difficult decision to provide cluster munitions, emphasizing that it was a temporary measure until a system for supplying Ukraine with conventional ammunition is in place.

The hope is that the countries concerned will strengthen their support system for ammunition so that Ukraine will use cluster munitions for as short a time as possible.

Signatory countries of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including Japan, have indicated that they respect the U.S. decision, while pointing out the importance of the convention. The only way to resolve the inhumane situation is to bring about the withdrawal of Russian troops and a failed invasion.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2023)