[EDITORIALS]Iraq troop issue is test for GohRumors of a difference of opinion between the United States and Korea on the dispatch of Korean troops to Iraq are drawing attention even in these times of domestic confusion. The issue gives all the more reason for concern as it is the first foreign policy issue that Prime Minister Goh Kun must face as acting president.
Attention is focused on how the government will deal with the situation. We hope our government will exercise its diplomatic capabilities to resolve the situation in a direction favorable to the future of the U.S.-Korean alliance and to maximize the effect of the presence of our troops in Iraq while ensuring their safety.
It is rumored that with only a few weeks left before the dispatch, there is a discrepancy of opinion on the matter of a U.S. military presence in the areas in Iraq that the Korean troops would be stationed in. The U.S. government has informed Seoul that due to the worsening violence in the northern region of Kirkuk, some U.S. military forces will remain even after the arrival of the Korean soldiers. The position of the Korean Ministry of Defense, however, is that the idea of co-stationing with U.S. troops will pose a bigger threat to the safety of our soldiers.
What we are interested in is whether the U.S. demand is based solely on the worsening violence in the region. The United States withdrew its troops in that region in February and replaced it with a new force.
The initial plan was for the Americans to withdraw when Korean troops arrived in April. There is speculation that the United States will pursue a different military plan regardless of the Korean government’s position that our troops would carry out an independent operation.
The government must resolve the problem wisely through diplomatic efforts. It must also explain questions raised by people about the negotiations and win the understanding of the soldiers’ families.