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President Roh to Extend Deployment of Zaytun Unit in Iraq

President Roh to Extend Deployment of Zaytun Unit in Iraq

Posted October. 24, 2007 08:12,   


On October 23, President Roh Moo-hyun appealed for understanding from the public and political circles, saying that he would submit to the National Assembly a bill that stipulates a 50 percent reduction of troop numbers in the Zaytun Unit, currently deployed in Iraq, by year’s end and the complete phased withdrawal by December of next year.

In an address to the nation, he said, “As U.S.-Korea collaboration is now more essential than ever, we have decided to defer the withdrawal of the Zaytun Unit, originally scheduled for the end of this year, by another 12 months.”

He stressed the growing importance of close bilateral partnerships with the Six-Party Talks on North Korea’s nuclear dismantlement making progress and the Inter-Korean relationship advancing to a new level.

While the Grand National Party (GNP) and Democratic Party (DP) announced their endorsement of the plan, the United New Democratic Party (UNDP) and Democratic Labor Party (DLP) expressed their disapproval, signaling difficulties for the bill to be passed in the National Assembly. Moreover, presidential hopefuls with different opinions are expected to put the issue of extended deployment to debate in the run-up to the presidential election.

President Roh made a public apology, expressing regrets over the failure to withdraw the troops by the end of the year, as he promised last year, and suggested another proposal. He added, however, “What is more significant is a choice in the national interest. I also call for understanding from the political circles.”

However, UNDP presidential candidate Chung Dong-yeong reaffirmed his stance against the plan, saying that he is fully aware of the significance of the bilateral alliance, but keeping promises to the nation is more important.

In contrast, GNP candidate Lee Myung-bak agreed on the plan. The conservative party is to hold an ad-hoc general assembly of lawmakers on October 24 and will uphold Lee’s opinion as the party’s platform.

Democratic Labor Party presidential candidate Kwon Young-gil strongly opposed an extension of troop deployment and former Yuhan-Kimberly CEO Mun Guk-hyeon, cited as a strong contender within the ruling party, also announced his opposition. Democratic Party contender Lee In-je and the People First Party’s Shim Dae-pyeong approved the bill.