June 2, 2011

US Troops Dumped Agent Orange in South Korea

Since the revelations by former US soldiers stationed in Korea that they buried toxic defoliant Agent Orange in a US base in Korea, more and more related revelations are surfacing, making this issue a tip of an iceberg of potentially massive environmental disaster (the photo shows soil testing in the US base for possible contamination). US troops may have secretly buried the Agent Orange tanks in several base locations, and has sprayed the chemical over the DMZ near the border with North Korea to clear foliage (the Demilitarized Zone is touted as a pristine, undisturbed natural preserve, but that may be only true on the northern side as the southern side's forests have been sprayed with defoliants). In an affront to Koreans, it was revealed that the actual spraying of the dangerous chemical was done by Koreans, with US soldiers monitoring and supervising the operations from far away.

This scenario is alike the situation when US troops practiced deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Korea prior to their removal in the early 90s. A standard war exercise involved South Korean troops carrying backpacks filled with small nuclear weapons and moving closer to the field where likely North Korean troops would have amassed, with US soldiers staying far away, holding remote controls that would detonate the nuclear bombs. It clearly showed an unequal relationship between Americans and South Koreans.

Although the US military authorities have acted quickly this time and agreed to a joint investigation with South Korean authorities, this incident will not likely quell anti-US sentiments of South Koreans, as Koreans will see US getting away with another misdeed (since the current Status of Forces Agreement [SOFA] will likely preclude any prosecution of US military wrongdoing in Korea).

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