President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Defense to roll back restrictions on the use of land mines, the White House announced on Friday.
The decision will reverse a 2014 policy that limited the use of the explosive devices to the Korean peninsula. The new policy will enable the use of anti-personnel land mines elsewhere in the world in "exceptional circumstances."
The White House said the new policy will apply to "advanced, non-persistent" landmines that are "specifically designed to reduce unintended harm to civilians and partner forces." Non-persistent landmines typically self-destruct, though some experts have questioned their effectiveness.
Anti-personnel land mines that do not self-destruct are banned by more than 150 countries because of their tendency to inflict civilian casualties, often years after they are used in conflict.
"The Department of Defense has determined that restrictions imposed on American forces by the Obama Administration's policy could place them at a severe disadvantage during a conflict against our adversaries," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. "The President is unwilling to accept this risk to our troops."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper described land mines as an "important tool" during a press conference Friday at the Pentagon alongside his Italian counterpart.
"That said, in everything we do we also want to make sure that these instruments, in this case land mines, also take into account both the safety of employment and the safety to civilians and others after a conflict," Esper said.
Some lawmakers pushed back against administration over its decision to roll back its land mine restrictions.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who has pushed to end the global use of anti-personnel land mines, said in a statement that the move was "as perplexing as it is disappointing, and reflexive, and unwise."
"The White House claims that the previous policy put our military at a 'severe disadvantage against our adversaries.' That case was not made convincingly when the policy limiting their use to Korea was adopted in 2014, and it has not been made today," Leahy said.