SEOUL, Jul. 15 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea and the United States agreed Wednesday to seek a “comprehensive and systematic” measure to prevent the recurrence of a live anthrax shipment to the peninsula, the Foreign Ministry said.
The two sides also agreed to continue joint efforts to resolve disputes over the cleaning of polluted American military bases here to be returned to South Korea.
The allies discussed the issues in a twice-a-year meeting on implementing the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which defines areas of legal responsibility over the 28,000-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).
In late May, the Pentagon said the live anthrax sample was sent “inadvertently” to Osan Air Base, south of Seoul, from a military lab in Utah. Some U.S. servicemen were exposed to the potentially lethal bacteria, but none showed signs of infection, it added.
Last week, Seoul and Washington launched a panel to look into the case.
“The two sides noted the formation of the Joint Working Group (JWG). They agreed to continue cooperation so that they can figure out relevant facts through the JWG’s activity and map out a comprehensive and systematic measure to prevent the recurrence of a similar incident,” the ministry said.
Other agenda items in the meeting, the 195th of its kind, included a recent shooting range accident, job security for Korean employees at U.S. bases and crimes by U.S. troops here.
A local resident was hurt in March as a ricochet hit a house close to the Rodriguez complex. It prompted the 8th Army chief Lt. Gen. Bernard Champoux to offer a public apology.
The U.S. also said it would step up efforts to reduce crimes by its troops outside their bases in South Korea, added the ministry.
In the SOFA meeting, South Korea was represented by Shin Chae-hyun, director-general for the ministry’s North American affairs bureau, and his counterpart was Lt. Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, deputy commander of USFK.