SEOUL (Reuters) - Investigators looking in to claims that a large amount of the defoliant Agent Orange was buried at a U.S. military base in South Korea have found no trace of the toxic chemical, the U.S. Army said on Thursday.
South Korean and U.S. experts have been working to determine the validity of testimony by ex-servicemen in May that they had buried the toxic herbicide at Camp Carroll in Chilgok, about 300 km (200 miles) southeast of Seoul, in 1978.
The U.S. military has moved swiftly to address concerns that the chemical may have contaminated the soil.
The speedy response stands in contrast to what many Koreans saw as a sluggish U.S. reaction to the accidental deaths of two school girls hit by a military vehicle in 2002.
The deaths fueled a surge of anti-American sentiment that helped the campaign of a liberal presidential candidate who, at the end of that year, defeated a conservative opponent who was considered pro-U.S.
"To date, no evidence of Agent Orange has been discovered either on Camp Carroll or in the adjacent community," the U.S. 8th Army said in a statement.
The finding were the result of "non-intrusive" surveys using radar and magnetometer on the locations identified in the testimony and tests on water samples taken from areas outside the camp, it said. Results of tests on water samples from wells on the base have yet to be released.
Further tests were scheduled through mid-July and more might be conducted later, it said.
Agent Orange was used to clear vegetation during the Vietnam War and was also used years later on the Demilitarised Zone border dividing the Korean peninsula since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The herbicide is suspected or causing serious health problems, including cancer, and birth defects.
The U.S. military has said a large amount of chemicals was buried at Camp Carroll but they had been removed more than 30 years ago.
South Korea has been investigating a separate report of toxic chemical dumping in the 1960s by the U.S. military at an old base near the capital.
The United States has about 30,000 soldiers in South Korea defending the U.S. ally from North Korea.
(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel)