SEOUL (Reuters) - The chief of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) apologized on Sunday for an incident near one of the main U.S. bases in South Korea during which military police handcuffed local residents over a parking infringement.
The U.S. military's presence on the peninsula is a sensitive issue, and incidents involving American servicemen have set off huge protests in the past calling for their withdrawal.
Last week's incident occurred at Pyeongtaek, 70 km (40 miles) south of Seoul and home to Osan Air Base, when a patrol of U.S. military policemen began arguing with a local car owner over his parking spot, local police said.
The incident sparked a scuffle and a crowd quickly gathered at the scene, prompting the military police to handcuff three locals to take them for questioning.
"I am very sorry this occurred. I want to express my sincere apology to the individuals and community affected by the incident," General James D. Thurman said in a written statement.
In 2002, the deaths of two schools girls hit by a U.S. military vehicle conducting exercises and the subsequent acquittal of the involved servicemen in a U.S. court martial led to a massive public outcry and a series of nationwide anti-American protests.
The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea, in the allies' defense against North Korea. The two Koreas are still technically at war after signing only an armistice treaty to end their 1950-53 war.
(Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)