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Korea to extend troop deployment in UAE, Somalia

The Korean government on Tuesday endorsed a motion to extend its troop deployment in Somalia and the United Arab Emirates for another year until the end of 2013.

The Cabinet meanwhile approved a separate bill, calling for the withdrawal of most soldiers in Afghanistan this year except for a 70-strong unit to protect aid workers and embassy staff.

The proposals are subject to parliamentary approval.

Korea dispatched 310 troops to the Gulf of Aden off Somalia in 2009 as part of a multinational effort to protect trade vessels from local pirates.

Somali pirates often take hostage ships and the crews of international tankers. In early 2011, Korea launched its first rescue operation by sending its commandoes to save the crew of the Samho Jewelry, a Korean freighter.

Some 150 Korean contingent troops have been stationed in the UAE since 2011, training local forces to fight terrorism. Korea sent the troops as part of efforts to boost the country’s strategic alliance after Korea won its biggest nuclear power project deal.

The dispatch led to increasing criticism that the Korean government is using the armed forces as a reward for the nuclear project.

The government also plans to withdraw some 290 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year as scheduled. Some 70 soldiers will remain to continue their mission of protecting the Korean Embassy and aid workers working for the reconstruction of the war-torn country.

Their missions have been extended every year with the approval by the National Assembly.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)
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