Troop dispatch question over deal with UAE

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Troop dispatch question over deal with UAE

Facing opposition parties’ criticism that the Lee Myung-bak administration secured the $20 billion nuclear reactor construction bid in the United Arab Emirates in return for deploying military to the country, a senior Blue House official said yesterday that the decision was “inevitable” for Korea’s interest.

After the Ministry of National Defense unveiled a plan earlier this week to dispatch a battalion of special forces to the Middle East country, the main opposition Democratic Party condemned the move.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told reporters about a plan to deploy 130 servicemen from the Special Warfare Command to the UAE. The government needs the National Assembly’s approval to dispatch the troops.

The Democrats have strongly condemn the plan. “Troop deployment in return for economic gains will severely damage Korea’s reputation in the international community,” DP Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu said.

As the controversy grew, the Blue House stepped up efforts to calm the situation. “Countries that exchange with the UAE, which has relatively weak defense capabilities, often send troops even when the projects were smaller than [that of Korea],” an aide said. “About 3,000 troops from 10 countries are already stationed there. We are not doing anything special.”

The aide pointed out the unusual nature of the nuclear reactor project, stressing that the facility requires military protection.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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