Troop dispatch to the UAE

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Troop dispatch to the UAE

The National Assembly yesterday debated about whether to send 130 special forces soldiers to the United Arab Emirates.

When Democratic Party lawmaker Kim Jin-pyo asked Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik if dispatching our troops to a foreign country for a commercial purpose involving the construction of nuclear power plants violates the Constitution, the prime minister said that the construction project and sending troops are separate matters. He then gave the go-ahead for the National Assembly to approve the plan.

But the issue is sure to provoke a heated debate among lawmakers because the opposition parties, including the DP, are strongly opposed to the idea of sending troops.

The decision to send military forces to foreign countries should be made by a broad consensus among the people, particularly in the National Assembly, because it can result in the loss of soldiers’ lives and incur hostilities from many concerned parties.

But this is different from our dispatching troops to the Vietnam War or sending troops for peace-keeping missions in troubled areas of the world. Sending our troops to the Middle Eastern country is part of an agreement between Korea and the UAE, which had agreed to cooperate in “all fields.”

Also, this is not a decision coerced by a request from the United States, as most opponents worry. Though the UAE has friendly relations with the U.S., it does not have direct conflicts with its neighbors or suffer internal division - a big difference from the situation in Iraq. In the UAE, there are troops from other countries, including France, which sent its forces for the purpose of promoting economic ties with the UAE while also protecting its national interests.

A prince of the UAE and deputy commander in chief were deeply impressed by a training demonstration by our special forces on his visit to Korea last May, and he officially requested that Korea dispatch special forces to enhance the capability of the UAE forces through joint drills. Sending our troops there can provide us with a good opportunity to strengthen bilateral relations with the UAE as well as demonstrate our growing stature.

But the government should be very careful not to invite any misunderstandings from the UAE’s neighbors.

The government should first make clear the purpose of sending troops in a bill, while employing its best diplomatic efforts not to cause any suspicions about its intentions.

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