By Du Baiyu
Recently, citizens in the ROK city of Busan have been holding protests, calling for the closure of the biochemical laboratory of the US military in the port of Busan and the removal of biochemical weapons from the ROK. For many years, the US military’s shipment of biological warfare agents to the ROK has been repeatedly exposed, and their false remarks about biochemical experiments debunked, fermenting doubts, discontent and protests among the general public of the ROK.
About controversies over America’s biochemical lab in ROK, people are demanding answers to the following questions:
First, what is the US military’s real intention of shipping biological warfare agents to Busan?
ROK’s Yonhap News Agency reported lately that Busan Port’s Pier 8 houses a biosurveillance project Centaur, which aims to hold the capabilities of NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] threat awareness, understanding, and response, a continuation of the previous Jupitr program. While the United States Forces Korea (USFK) kept stressing that Jupitr is a defensive weapon system designed to respond to biochemical threats from DPRK by detecting, analyzing, and issuing warnings about toxic substances, ROK military experts still insisted that defense and research are two sides to a coin when it comes to bio-weapons, and the bacteria tests by the stationed troops are definitely not just for defense.
ROK media commented that the operation of Jupitr and Centaur system by US troops is turning the Korean peninsula into the center stage of America’s bio-weapon defense strategy. With such facilities in the ROK, the US military will test and validate bio-weapon samples for US bases all over the world in ROK instead of in the American soil.
Second, why is the US holding back the truth?
The US side adamantly denied its operation of a military biochemical lab at Busan Port’s Pier 8 until the project was exposed by the media in 2016. In 2015, the US military claimed its shipment of biochemical warfare agents to ROK that year was the first time, which was belied later as investigations traced the secret shipment all the way back to 2009. What is the US trying to hide?
According to public opinions in the ROK, as a signatory to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the US has an obligation not to develop, produce or store microbial agents, toxins, and related weapons other than for peaceful purposes, but the US troops in ROK obviously didn’t care about that.
Legality, transparency and security are the common requirements of the international community for US biomilitary activities. The US side should take concrete and credible actions to fully fulfill its obligations under the BWC and stop standing alone in blocking negotiations for a protocol that includes a verification mechanism to the BWC, so as to create conditions for addressing concerns and building mutual trust through verification. Unfortunately, the US side has turned a deaf ear to international concerns.
Third, why has the US ignored the health and safety of the local people?
It must be noted that there are four residential communities and several schools within a 500m radius of Pier 8 of the Busan Port. What if a biochemical disaster happens in such a populous district? Does the US side have an emergency response plan?
The American version of the story is that they chose to build the lab at Pier 8 to protect the Busan residents who lived in a densely populated area. This was immediately refuted by an immunologist and professor at the Seoul National University, who called bio-weapon experiments in downtown areas ridiculous.
ROK media also commented that although Seoul has paid trillions of won to share the expenses of local American troops, the US side, while paying the lip service of protecting its allies, is actually using it as a test field. As early as in 2014, Dr. Peter Emanuel of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), who was responsible for the project in ROK, admitted in an interview with an American military magazine that (the US) could experiment anytime anywhere if it wanted to, and that it could, to some extent, control the consequences of a failed experiment. In response, angered ROK netizens demanded the US troops, which took ROK as cannon fodder, go back to their country on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
The truth is still buried under the iceberg, and controversies are raging. The US owes the world an explanation about its biochemical lab in ROK.
Editor's note: This article is originally published on Xinhuanet.com, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.