US gov't-USFK crimes

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, March 18 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government expressed concern Monday over alleged crimes involving American soldiers serving in Korea.

The State Department vowed thorough cooperation in investigations by South Korea's law-enforcement authorities of those incidents.

"We take very seriously all allegations of misconduct," a State Department official told Yonhap News Agency, saying it's the department's official position.

"The United States government expects the highest standards of conduct from all U.S. government employees posted overseas, including U.S. service members," the official added. "The United States government is committed to cooperating fully and closely with Korean authorities on the investigations."

Crimes by U.S. troops have been recurring in South Korea, sometimes sparking anti-American sentiment among the public there.

The presence of American troops in South Korea is a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire. Around 28,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed on the peninsula.

In recent days, some service members have been involved in a series of incidents, including alleged crimes.

Over the weekend, several U.S. soldiers were engaged in an early-morning brawl involving a knife outside a Dongducheon night club, northeast of Seoul.

During the fight, a South Korean man got hold of a U.S. soldier's knife and stabbed three of them.

Two others had separate early-morning altercations with Korean police officers.

The incidents have rekindled calls in South Korea for the revision of the South Korea-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which governs the legal status of U.S. troops there.

Many local activists argue that the SOFA is not fair, compared with similar agreements in Japan or Germany. Among many problems, they say, is that South Korean police are restricted from entering U.S. military bases for investigation.

U.S. military officials refute that, saying South Korean investigators have the full authority to investigate any case in their jurisdiction.

South Korean police are able to enter U.S. bases to interview suspects in close cooperation with military law enforcement authorities when necessary, they point out.

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