South Korea and the U.S. will conduct a joint on-site investigation at the U.S.’ Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, next Thursday, as their initial step to probe the accidental shipment of a live anthrax sample to the base, Seoul officials said Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Jang Kyung-soo, director general of the policy planning bureau at Seoul’s Defense Ministry, shakes hands with Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hedelund, U.S. Forces Korea assistant chief of staff for policy and plans, before the first meeting of the joint committee to investigate the accidental shipment of a live anthrax sample to a lab in Osan Air Base in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
The decision was made as the joint fact-finding committee, established July 11, held its first plenary meeting at South Korea’s Defense Ministry building in central Seoul.
Maj. Gen. Jang Kyung-soo, director general of the policy planning bureau at Seoul’s Defense Ministry, represented the South Korean side, while Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hedelund, U.S. Forces Korea assistant chief of staff for policy and plans, led the U.S. side.
Consisting of the on-site technical assessment team and bio-defense cooperation procedure team, the committee will investigate how the anthrax sample made it to the biological research lab at the base and how the sample was dealt with after its entry into the base.
During the planned on-site probe, officials from both sides plan to demonstrate exactly what happened with the sample, Seoul officials explained.
“We believe the on-site investigation will help address our citizens’ concerns about the anthrax sample, as we will see all processes from the sample’s entry into the military installation to the handling of the sample and its disposal, and check whether all these took place in accordance with the international and domestic safety rules,” a Seoul official told reporters, declining to be named.
After the joint probe, the committee is to report its investigation results to the Seoul-Washington Status of Forces Agreement Joint Committee, which will convene in December.
The committee was established after the controversial revelation in late May that a U.S. lab in Utah mistakenly sent a live sample of anthrax bacteria to a lab in Korea, which had been using dead anthrax spores for its military research.
The U.S. authorities confirmed that live anthrax samples had been mistakenly delivered to 86 military labs in 20 U.S. states, Washington and seven foreign nations -- South Korea, Australia, Canada, Britain, Japan, Italy and Germany.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall has admitted that the shipment was a “serious and inexcusable mistake.”
By Song Sang-ho(email@example.com