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Chile moves to get rid of cluster munitions

Sept. 25, 2013 at 6:20 PM   |   Comments

SANTIAGO, Chile, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Chile taking steps to get rid of cluster munitions in its military inventories but official briefs on the development remain sketchy and somewhat shrouded in mystery, analysts said.

Past problems with neighbors have burdened the Latin American country with huge backlogs on munitions and tens of thousands of mines in border regions are waiting to be cleared.

The cluster munitions' presence in the military's arsenals came as a surprise and followed months of speculation about Chilean defense acquisitions and ambitious military modernization plans. Follow-ups to reported multimillion dollar purchases by the army, navy and the air force have been scant and lacking in detail.

A Spanish-language announcement on the military command's website said the Chilean army eliminated all cluster munitions from its inventory as part of obligations under an international treaty.

"Of course, the fact that the Army declares itself free of cluster munitions means its artillery units had them before, even if those were never publicly acknowledged," the Chilean Defense and Military blog said.

"There has been no similar declaration from the (Chilean) Air Force about its cluster bombs," the blog said.

President Sebastian Pinera and his military aides have been talking on and off about modernizing the country's defenses, more in the interest of combat-readiness than in response to a particular threat to Chilean security.

The military receives a percentage of Chile's earnings from copper exports and there have been reports that, while awash with cash, the military is undecided about what to buy. International arms exporters undertook frequent marketing visits to Santiago to try and extract deals from the military and the Ministry of Defense.

Expo Naval in Valparaiso last year drew arms dealers from 29 countries and, although focused on naval defenses, the December 2012 event showcased weapons for different services. Chilean defense purchases in before or after the fair were not discussed.

Pinera has been wary of regional criticism and diplomatic moves to monitor military purchases and sales by governments.

Amid regional rhetoric that Latin America had entered an arms race, the administration of former President Michele Bachelet promised to compile a comprehensive list of all military purchases and to pursue other regional governments for similar transparency, but the project wasn't pursued.

The government hasn't produced a full inventory of its weapons and there hasn't been an explanation of the reasons behind recent comments on cluster munitions.

Chile is a signatory to various international conventions, including the Convention on Cluster Munitions adopted in Dublin, Ireland, in May 2008 and signed in Oslo in December that year.

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