S Korean, U.S. officials discuss possible SOFA revision

17:36, June 14, 2011      

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South Korean and U.S. officials held a meeting Tuesday in Seoul to discuss issues related to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), as the allies look into allegations that U.S. forces secretly buried toxic chemical substances at a military base here.

The agreement, signed in 1967 to provide legal basis for U.S. forces to operate here, has met with sporadic public decry here whenever legal protection it offers for U.S. soldiers came into question.

This time around, allegations that U.S. forces dumped over 30 years ago the toxic defoliant Agent Orange at one of their bases in Chilgok, some 300 km southeast of Seoul, stirred up new debates about the validity of the agreement.

The news rattled South Korea, a country with more than 33,000 Vietnam War veterans who has suffered numerous after-effects from exposure to Agent Orange.

Seoul officials have said they remain open to the possibility of revising the SOFA if necessary, although they are currently focused on progress in the ongoing joint investigation.

The SOFA was last revised in 2001, which allowed more crimes by U.S. military personnel to be tried at local courts and attempted to ensure more respect on the part of the U.S. troops for South Korean environmental laws.

Some 28,500 American troops are stationed here, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Source: Xinhua
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