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Buried chemicals on U.S. military base removed from S. Korea

All Headlines 10:18 June 02, 2011

SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) -- Chemicals that were buried at a U.S. military base in South Korea in the 1970s were excavated and removed from the South for apparent disposal, a U.S. commander told the South's environment minister, ministry officials said Thursday.

South Korea and the U.S. have launched a joint investigation into claims by retired American soldiers that they had helped dump large amounts of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange in 1978 inside Camp Carroll in Chilgok, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

No evidence backing the allegations of Agent Orange burial has been found, but the U.S. military confirmed last week that a "large number" of drums containing pesticides, herbicides and solvents were buried at Camp Carroll in 1978, but were moved outside the base during the following two years.

Since then, U.S. military officials have tried to determine where the chemicals were moved to and how they were disposed.

Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, commander of the Eighth U.S. Army and lead investigator into the claims, told Environment Minister Yoo Young-sook on Wednesday that the chemicals were moved to outside South Korea.

"At a briefing session for Minister Yoo, Johnson said that pollutants were moved to outside South Korea," said Song Jae-yong, a senior ministry official who attended the briefing inside Camp Carroll.

Song said the U.S. military preliminarily confirmed the removal of chemicals to outside of South Korea by interviewing former U.S. soldiers, but no documents supporting the claim have been found.

In Chilgok, the joint investigation team began an on-site probe Thursday near a heliport and other areas inside Camp Carroll, with the help of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) devices to determine whether any toxic materials were buried there.

The team will also conduct tests on soil after the GPR tests if any poisonous substances are suspected to be buried in a certain area.

Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant widely used during the Vietnam War, was sprayed by the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) in the 1960s around the Demilitarized Zone to thwart North Korean infiltrations.

Camp Carroll is a logistics base for the U.S., which has some 28,500 troops stationed in the South, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

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