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Troop Dispatch to UAE

Posted November. 06, 2010 10:14,   


Korea will soon dispatch 130 soldiers from a special combat unit to the United Arab Emirates. Since its participation in the Vietnam War, the Korean military has limited its foreign troop dispatch to engagement in multinational units and U.N. peacekeeping operations. The dispatch to the UAE is a new form of troop deployment abroad by Korea that entails training of the UAE military and poses no risk of engagement. This is the kind of dispatch that would be impossible had the Korean military had not become a globally strong force with solid combat capability.

Seoul has been pushing for the dispatch at Abu Dhabi’s request. In the course of negotiations over Korea’s bidding for nuclear reactor projects in the Mideast country, the UAE asked Korea for military cooperation that lives up to their “ties as strategic partners.” Abu Dhabi suggested the dispatch of Korean troops and training as part of a list of specific cooperation measures. The Korean Defense Ministry said UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan watched a demonstration of a Korean elite combat unit training while visiting Seoul in May, and asked for military deployment by specifically singling out a certain combat unit. If the UAE cultivates a special combat unit of its own, it will also effectively help boost the security of nuclear power plants to be built there by Korean companies.

More than 3,000 soldiers from 10 countries, including the U.S., France, Australia and Britain, are in the UAE to conduct operations. Developed countries are enthusiastic about military ties with the UAE due to the diplomatic and economic benefits. Korea is also reaping the fruits of its military cooperation. Negotiations are underway for the export of 20-millimeter Vulcan machine guns and K-11 next-generation rifles following the signing of a defense export deal worth 20 million U.S. dollars, including for surveillance and defense equipment and ammunition transport vehicles. In addition, 500 to 700 retired Korean veterans could land jobs in the UAE. Korea needs to proactively utilize its military whenever it serves national interests.

Now is the era of well-rounded diplomacy. When a diplomatic dispute erupted between Korea and Libya months ago, the main opposition Democratic Party criticized the Korean government, saying, “Middle East diplomacy has gone nowhere.” If the dispatch of the elite combat unit helps improve ties with the UAE, this will greatly boost Korea’s diplomacy and economic advance toward the Middle East. Did the Democratic Party even stop to think before expressing its opposition to the deployment? The party was wrong to criticize the dispatch by calling it a “bonus giveaway” in return for the reactor projects. Even an opposition party has no right to insult its armed forces. The Defense Ministry is partially responsible for the misunderstanding. Despite sending an onsite inspection team to the UAE in mid-October, it remained tightlipped before announcing the dispatch plan Wednesday. The ministry must adequately explain the process of how the dispatch plan was set and win public support.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)