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Korea to send more arms to its peacekeeping troops in S. Sudan

Korea to send more arms to its peacekeeping troops in S. Sudan

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Published : 2013-12-23 19:53
Updated : 2013-12-23 19:53

South Korea is moving to beef up its peacekeeping forces in South Sudan amid growing threats of a civil war in the African country.

The Defense Ministry said Monday it would send cargo planes carrying firearms, ammunition, food and other supplies as early as Wednesday to its contingency in Bor, some 170 kilometers north of the capital Juba.

Seoul has also requested Japanese Self Defense Forces in South Sudan to provide 10,000 rifleshots, officials said.

South Korea’s Hanbit unit, consisting of 284 engineers and medics, operates as part of the U.N. mission there.

Officials said the Korean forces do not face an “immediately urgent” situation, though violence is escalating between rebel forces and the nascent African country’s government.

The decision was made at a meeting on Sunday led by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin.

“We understand that our Hanbit unit will not be affected for now, since it mainly comprises engineers engaged in road construction,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a regular briefing.

“But the unit is keeping a strengthened defense posture, stepping up safety protection and refraining from outside activities.”

Seoul has created a comprehensive crisis response team to better protect its citizens in South Sudan and coordinate more swiftly and effectively with its forces and the U.N. there, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

The ministry on Thursday issued a special travel warning and advised 24 Koreans in the country to evacuate as soon as possible.

With the death toll topping 500 and the rebels seizing a key oil-producing state, the heated battle is raising fears of a full-blown civil war in the world’s newest country. Nearly two years after its birth, ethnic tension has persisted.

Some 34,000 local residents took refuge inside the U.N. bases, which are deemed relatively safe as rebel leaders promised not to interfere with its operations, Seoul officials said, citing the U.N.

The U.S., U.K., Germany and other countries are stepping up efforts to protect its citizens and help stabilize South Sudan by sending more troops and planes for evacuation. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly plans to dispatch a special envoy for arbitration.

“As it has not been very long since its independence, the South Sudan government remains unstable, bent on fighting Sudan in the border regions. Now with the internal conflict, the crisis is unfolding in a new direction,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)

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