400 troops may go to Philippines

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400 troops may go to Philippines

The Korean government is reviewing a plan to dispatch some 400 military personnel - including doctors and engineers - to further help out the recovery process in the storm-ravaged Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.

“To be ready for immediate deployment in case there is a request from the Philippine government, we are reviewing the troops and personnel to be deployed, as well as equipment,” said Kim Min-seok, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, at a briefing yesterday.

A Defense Ministry official said the previous day the team would be dedicated to reconstruction efforts.

“Because the scale of the disaster was so large, it is difficult to determine how long the troops will be dispatched for, but we are thinking of between six months to a year for now and, if needed, longer,” said the official. “We plan to submit the proposal to the National Assembly, and once approval is reached, we will be prepared to be able to dispatch [the team] right away.”

Last week, the Korean government pledged $5 million in aid to the Philippines for emergency relief and deployed a group of emergency civilian responders and doctors as well as military aircraft with food and supplies.

On Thursday and Friday, Korea sent via two C-130 military cargo aircraft some 850 million won ($803,000) worth of emergency goods.

The aircraft transferred goods such as food, water, tents and blankets from Cebu to Tacloban, the capital of the hard-hit Leyte Province.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Saturday that all 56 Koreans in the storm-struck regions such as Tacloban were safe. Last week, many couldn’t be traced because communication systems were down.

Some of the Korean nationals were transferred to safer areas such as Cebu and Manila with the assistance of emergency officials deployed there, and the two C-130 aircraft are expected to continue to help transfer victims from Tacloban to Cebu and other more stable regions in the next week.

“During the [1950-53] Korean War, the Philippines deployed 7,420 soldiers and is our long-time ally,” another defense official said. “So when our ally is facing difficulty, the government is trying to take action. Korean companies have also been active in support.”

Typhoon Haiyan flattened parts of the central Philippines on Nov. 8 and about 4,000 people were killed, according to the latest official toll. The number is expected to rise as relief efforts continue.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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