USFK must follow local regulationsThe Korea-U.S. Joint Working Group confirmed
that samples of a bacterial strain that caused the
bubonic plague, blamed for the deaths of millions
in the 14th century, were brought into U.S. military
installations in April together with live anthrax
samples. The anthrax virus has been tested at the
Yongsan base in Seoul 15 times, which the United
States Forces Korea (USFK) had so far kept secret.
But the finding also suggests that the USFK lied
on May 20 when it said an anthrax test had been
conducted only once in Korea after the Pentagon
admitted that a live anthrax sample was mistakenly
sent to a laboratory at the Osan Air Base in April.
We can only suspect this may be the tip of the
iceberg, since the finding is based on U.S. materials
and the working group was denied access to some
confidential USFK files. For these reasons, the group
couldn’t determine the number of samples, the exact
delivery date or the purpose of the tests at Yongsan.
We also cannot entirely believe the claim that there
were no dangerous biological agents other than anthrax
and plague bacillus.
Following the discovery, the joint committee on
the Status of Forces Agreement signed a pact obliging
the USFK to notify the government on any biological
samples brought into the country for lab testing
and the process by which they were handled.
We cannot expect there to be mutual trust if the
United States hides its import of potentially deadly
viruses — and an unfair information-sharing arrangement
could impair our security alliance.
However, we still need to hear an explanation
from Washington and the USFK on the purpose of
the anthrax tests. The host government is denied
access to lab work, so there should be an expert
from the host country present for any biological
weaponry testing by the USFK. The U.S. military
must also follow and respect local and international
regulations on biological agents. Washington
must also reveal all information related to the tests.
Would the United States sit idly back if it found out
live anthrax spores had been sent from another
country and tested there for years without its