The Anthrax Files: US Forces Conducted Multiple Secret Anthrax Experiments in South Korea

Column: Society
Region: Eastern Asia
Country: South Korea

The initial admission by the Department of Defense that one sample of  live anthrax was inadvertently sent to  Osan Air Base in South Korea has now been revealed  to be grossly inaccurate.

According to a recent report by a US/South Korea joint working group, a US military defense laboratory at Dugway Proving Grounds mailed anthrax to South Korea at least fifteen times prior to the previously acknowledged March, 2015 delivery. These other anthrax samples were delivered to Yongsan Garrison, in central South Korea, between 2009 and 2014.  In addition, a 1-milliliter sample of the Yersinia pestis bacterium (which can cause the bubonic plague) was sent along with the anthrax to Osan.

The United States has denied accusations that it lied in a May press release, which stated that: “The laboratory biological defense training, part of the Joint United States Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition Program at Osan Air Base, has been halted pending further review… This was the first time the training has been conducted.”

In an email reply to the Washington correspondent with Korean publication JoongAng Daily, Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban wrote:  “Following the inadvertent delivery of potentially live Bacillus anthracis, the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base correctly informed the public in the Osan area that the shipment supported the first Joint U.S. Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition program’s training at that location.”

JoongAng went on to report that  Urban suggested that the press release had been misunderstood and the intended meaning was  that “the first time”  training only referred to the first in Osan, not in all of South Korea.

It has recently come to light that the Pentagon FedExed live anthrax to all fifty states and to nine foreign countries. The Department of Defense has declared that errors in the process of inactivating the anthrax resulted in the inadvertence wherein live anthrax was FedExed to foreign and domestic laboratories. 

The joint working group has refused to discuss the amount of the anthrax samples used in Yongsan, citing “military secrets.” The working group’s conclusions are already under fire, with allegations being mounted that it relied too heavily on input from Washington.

Under current regulations, the US does not need to inform the South Korean government if it sends “inactive” germs. Since the recent crisis involving live anthrax being sent to South Korea and elsewhere, recommendations are being considered to change this practice to include advisories to foreign countries that biological materials are being shipped in, and for what purpose.

The US states that the anthrax sent to Osan was to be used to test protective gear. The US has consistently stated that North Korea maintains an offensive biological weapons program and is manufacturing weaponized anthrax and smallpox, among other agents, at a facility at Pyongyang.

In response, the North Korean government has offered to throw open the doors of the Pyongyang plant and has invited the Americans in to check the facility, which North Korea states is a pesticide manufacturing plant. As reported in The Guardian, a spokesman for the North Korean National Defence Commission said, “Come here right now, with all the 535 members of the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as the imbecile secretaries and deputy secretaries of the government who have made their voices hoarse screaming for new sanctions.”

A report from US Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall concerning the DoD review of the laboratory procedures which resulted in the purported failure to inactivate the anthrax has raised further questions. Kendall states that Dugway Proving Grounds has had “a relatively high incidence (20%) of post-inactivation viability tests that showed unsuccessful inactivation, but failed to address all the root causes of this high incidence.” (emphasis added)

 Kendall also makes a curious reference to an apparent intent behind the failure to inactivate anthrax at Dugway. He writes: “I agree with the Review  Committee that the combination of unique characteristics  at DPG, to include high volume production, low sampling size, intentionally impure products, and more immediate post-inactivation viability testing are possible contributing factors.” (emphasis added)  The report by Kendall does not elaborate on why “intentionally impure products” might be utilized or manufactured at DPG.

A former member of the military disagrees with the purported “inadvertence” of the live anthrax mailing. Speaking under terms of confidentiality, a source with former military connections had this to say about the US’s biological weapons program:  “…weaponizing bio & chem materials is in full swing at government research labs (Dugway & Tooele being one of the biggest – as I witnessed back in the late 1980’s). The obvious thing is that they could not have shipped out such quantities with the level of relevant ease if they were not in full swing.”

 According to Department of Defense spokesperson, Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, Major, U.S. Marine Corps, “To date, there have been no joint working groups in addition to the Republic of Korea-United States Biological Defense Cooperation Joint Working Group.”

It would therefore appear that the other eight countries known to have received live anthrax from the US– Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Italy, Germany, Norway and Switzerland –did not exhibit extensive concerns about the receipt of the active germ warfare agent.

And really, what’s the problem with a bio-bomb among friends, anyway?

Janet C. Phelan, investigative journalist and human rights defender that has traveled pretty extensively over the Asian region, an author of a tell-all book EXILE, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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