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Washington’s apology for live anthrax shipment is not enough

Washington’s apology for live anthrax shipment is not enough

Posted June. 01, 2015 07:16,   


At a defense ministerial talk with South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo in Singapore, U.S. Secretary Defense Ashton Carter made an official apology for sending live anthrax sample to U.S. Forces Osan Airbase in Korea. Given the magnitude of the case, it is only fair to say that a “responsible measure” would be taken and it would never recur. Korea, however, should never let it go of the fact that Washington brought the lethal substance of living anthrax into Korea’s territory without prior notification even though its defense secretary made an apology. Thorough study will have to be made how it is controlled and managed when not only anthrax but also all the hazardous substances that could seriously affect Koreans’ health and lives are brought into the country by the U.S. Forces.

“It was the first time to conduct an experiment with anthrax samples whose purpose was to raise the identification ability for poisonous substances and pathogenic bacterium,” the U.S. Forces in Korea explained. American media, however, reported that biological and chemical weapon defense systems facility called “Dugway Proving Ground” in Utah had sent live anthrax samples to 18 labs of private institutions and universities and an American army in Korea for over a year since March 2014. The truth must be uncovered with no reservation left. As a sovereign nation, Korea has every right to know what experiments and trainings are carried out at Osan Airbase known to be equipped with anthrax experiment facility.

The Korea-United States Status of Forces Agreement states that the U.S. Forces are required to notify the relevant information to the Korean Centers for Disease and Prevention when it enters Korea with hazardous substances. The U.S. Forces, however, didn’t comply with the requirement on the ground that the anthrax samples that have been delivered were not active. The U.S. Forces used FedEx, global courier delivery services company, to ship the samples into Korea. In accordance with SOFA, however, customs inspection is not carried out for military cargo to be sent to American forces, which makes it difficult for Korea to know when its army brings hazardous substances into the territory. Aside from fact-finding investigation that has been decided to be conducted through urgently-called SOFA’s joint committee, it should be investigated whether there are any items to be amended in SOFA items.

Once sprayed, 100 kilograms of anthrax bacteria could kill as many as 3 million people. South Korea should come up with practical preparation for anthrax as it is assumed that the bacteria is part of 5,000 tons of chemical and biological weapons that North Korea has. However, if the lethal bacterium is shipped into Korea without Korea’s knowledge, it would be hard to say that Korea-America alliance is working well. The South Korean government is strongly advised to verify whether other materials for biochemical weapons, other than anthrax bacterium, are wrongly shipped into its territory.