US military in S. Korea cracks down on misconduct

SEOUL (AFP) - Thousands of US troops stationed in South Korea have been suspended from drinking alcohol, following a series of violent incidents that have aroused public anger, US military officials said on Monday.

Three- and four-day weekend passes have also been cancelled until further notice, Eighth Army spokesman Colonel Andrew Mutter said in a statement.

"We are taking deliberate measures and actions to address all acts of misconduct and inappropriate behaviour," Colonel Mutter said.

Earlier this month, a US soldier was shot and injured by South Korean police after a high-speed car chase through Seoul, after he and other servicemen had allegedly fired a BB gun at passers-by.

One US soldier is under investigation for allegedly harassing a woman in an elevator last week, while two soldiers were arrested Sunday after allegedly hitting a police officer in the face and pushing another down the stairs.

About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended with a ceasefire instead of a peace treaty.

Crimes or disputes involving the US troops are a sensitive subject in South Korea, even though many see their presence as necessary to deter an attack by North Korea.

The military authorities said the alcohol ban was indefinite and would be lifted when deemed suitable.

It was not clear which units the measures would apply to, but Major General Edward Cardon of the 2nd Infantry Division, said all 10,000 men under his command would be included.

"We will not allow the actions of individuals to damage our 60-year alliance forged in the blood of the Korean War," he said.