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TAEGU, South Korea — The Army in Pusan, South Korea, soon will play host to U.S. agents in the war against terrorism.

From its offices at Pier 8 in bustling Pusan Harbor, the Army tracks all the U.S. military’s cargo moving in and out of South Korea by ship. It’s a U.S. military installation and headquarters of the Army’s 837th Transportation Battalion (Terminal), the “Kargo Kings.”

But within months, the Kargo Kings won’t be the only ones active at Pier 8. A team of U.S. and South Korean customs agents will set up shop in an office at the pier.

It’ll be their operating base for a new worldwide program that aims at thwarting any attempt to sneak weapons of mass destruction aboard steel shipping containers destined for U.S. ports.

The new program, the Container Security Initiative, or CSI, was developed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to protect containerized shipping from terrorists’ exploitation. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is mounting the program, is focusing for now on the world’s 20 largest seaports, Pusan being sixth on that list.

The five agents will be from one of Homeland Security’s subordinate agencies, Customs and Border Protection.

The team and five South Korean counterparts will target any suspicious containers — civilian or military — moving through seven of Pusan’s commercial piers and the military’s Pier 8.

Under the program, U.S. agents working closely with customs agents from the host nation will use high tech gear to X-ray shipping containers’ contents. Host-nation agents would have the legal authority to open suspicious containers for further inspection.

Discovery of outlawed items would trigger further investigation. Host-nation agents would remove and investigate any explosives or hazardous devices.

Containers coming into the United States long have been subject to checks by customs authorities, but CSI aims to catch weapons of mass destruction and other terror devices before they’re near U.S. shores.

U.S. Forces Korea made the office available to the CSI team. Details on the team’s deployment to South Korea still are being worked out, but it will probably be in place by late spring or early summer, said Celmouth Stewart, U.S. customs attaché in Seoul.

Most of Pier 8’s container traffic is military hardware — tanks, helicopters, and other cargo — going to or from South Korea. This month, Pier 8 also will open to a limited amount of commercial container traffic.

“It would not affect it at all because they actually would not bring any of the containers over here to Pier 8,” said Ron Day, the Kargo Kings’ chief of terminal operations. “They’re just based out of Pier 8 and they would go to the other commercial terminal.

“Mainly the containers that we move out of Pier 8 … are military,” he said. “But because some commercial containers would move through Pier 8, it’s possible agents might find themselves checking things there.

“But I think that would be very little because most of the containers that would be leaving out of Pier 8 under the commercial umbrella, those would be going to Japan and other places within Korea.”


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