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Artillery strikes near Korean base in South Sudan

Artillery strikes near Korean base in South Sudan

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Published : 2013-12-25 13:53
Updated : 2013-12-25 20:43

Two mortar cannons struck a U.N. peacekeeping base near a South Korean’ camp in South Sudan Tuesday as conflicts between government and rebel forces intensified, the Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The 280-member Korean contingent, mostly engineers and medics, remain safe, officials said Wednesday.

They are operating in the town of Bor, some 170 kilometers south of the capital Juba as part of the U.N. mission in the fledgling African nation.

On Tuesday, two mortar cannons struck a Nepalese base as South Sudanese government troops and renegade groups clashed near the U.N. camp, the JCS said.

The attack left several Nepalese soldiers slightly wounded.

“Currently, there is no engagement,” a senior JCS official said. “Military liaison officers in the base are closely communicating with South Sudanese government forces.”

South Korean troops also remained in contact with the Sudanese rebel groups, according to military officials.

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday approved plans to almost double the number of peacekeepers in South Sudan in an effort to protect civilians as fears of a civil war are rising in the world’s newest state.

U.N. investigators discovered a mass grave in a rebel-held city in South Sudan, the U.N. said, as a possible opening occurred for negotiations to avert civil war.

The South Korean troops stepped up their defense posture and borrowed additional ammunition from Japan via a U.N. mission to deal with possible contingencies.

South Korea is not considering dispatching additional troops to South Sudan, but the government will review various options upon request from the United Nations, the Defense Ministry here said Tuesday.

In response to a U.N. move to dispatch additional forces to protect civilians from violence, Seoul said it has not yet a received a request from the U.N. for additional troop dispatches, which needs parliamentary approval.

Seoul officials expressed regret about Japan’s move to use its provision of ammunitions to bolster its assertive defense policy.

The Defense Ministry has relayed its position that “if this military issue turns into a political one, it will have a negative impact on Korea-Japan military cooperation based on mutual trust,” a Seoul official told reporters Wednesday.

“It is an expression of strong regret,” he added.

Responding to a U.N. request, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces engineering troops in South Sudan supplied 10,000 rounds of ammunition to the South Korean troops on Monday through the U.N. mission in the African country.

It was the first time Japan has provided ammunition to another country and the latest move to ease self-imposed constraints on its military.

South Korea has fiercely protested Japan’s bid to expand its military’s role overseas pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

South Korean officials stressed the delivery was made not directly between Korean and Japanese forces, but through the U.N. mission.

“Fact is that the Hanbit unit requested and received the U.N.’s support to beef up its defense posture. Nothing more and nothing less,” Seoul’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said Tuesday.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a statement on Monday that the ammunition supply was exempt from the arms exports ban given its emergency and humanitarian nature.

In 1967, Japan drew up “three principles” on arms exports, banning sales to countries with communist governments, those involved in international conflicts or those subject to United Nations sanctions.

The rules eventually became almost a blanket ban on arms exports and on the development and production of weapons, stifling Japanese defense contractors and making it difficult for them to keep up with cutting-edge arms technology.

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