Cabinet backs troops to UAE

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Cabinet backs troops to UAE

Korea’s cabinet in a meeting yesterday approved a bill that would send a battalion of combat troops to the United Arab Emirates by the end of the year on a mission to support the training of UAE service members, officials said.

Seoul’s Defense Ministry last week announced its plan to deploy about 130 special operations forces to the UAE to boost South Korea’s military alliance with the oil-rich nation.

Ministry officials say the troop dispatch to the UAE would promote South Korea’s interests in a non-conflict environment, where economic ties would also benefit.

The bill, subject to approval by the National Assembly, is expected to trigger controversy; opposition parties have vowed to oppose it, citing safety concerns for the troops. The ruling Grand National Party has 171 seats in the 299-member legislature; the Democratic Party holds 87 seats.

The decision to send troops came after the relationship between South Korea and the UAE was elevated to a “strategic partnership” last December, the Defense Ministry said. Since then, their militaries have engaged in cooperative activities, including defense logistics and military training.

The upgrade coincided with the winning of a landmark contract worth about 22 trillion won ($20 billion) by a consortium led by South Korean firms to build four nuclear reactors in the UAE by 2020.

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