Seoul to dispatch troops to UAE
By Jung Sung-ki
Korea plans to dispatch about 130 troops to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) next year as part of efforts to establish closer defense ties with the Middle Eastern nation, the Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday.
The plan was discussed during a policy coordination meeting in Seoul, a ministry spokesman said. Defense Minister Kim Tae-young and ruling party lawmakers belonging to the National Assembly Defense Committee attended the session, he said.
The troop dispatch plan comes after Seoul won a landmark $20 billion contract last December to build four nuclear reactors in the UAE.
Before the contract was announced, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young flew to the Middle East country twice to support the contract and discuss bilateral defense issues.
Kim and his UAE counterpart reportedly signed a closed-door agreement on specific defense cooperation measures, including the dispatch of Korean troops.
UAE military leaders also asked for the troop dispatch when they visited Seoul earlier this year, the spokesman said.
The local contingent will help train UAE troops and protect Korean nationals there from any possible terror attack, he added.
“A motion for the troop deployment will be presented in the Assembly’s regular session,” he said. “Once approved, the deployment could be possible early next year.”
The UAE military is interested in Korea’s operational skills and training methods, such as the battlefield Military Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES), harbor protection systems and pilot training.
The armed forces of the UAE, officially called the Union Defense Force, consist of 65,000 troops, and are headquartered in Abu Dhabi. It is a federal military force and is primarily responsible for the defense of all seven emirates.
Korea has 650,000 troops and is supported by 28,500 U.S. forces. The troops are being equipped with high-tech weapons under the Defense Reform 2020 modernization program.
An official at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said a closer military relationship with the UAE could help exports of Korean weapons systems.
Seoul is seeking to boost its defense exports to nations in the Middle East and Africa.
Last year, the UAE selected Italy’s M-346 trainer jet as the preferred model for its trainer acquisition program.
But both sides have failed to finalize the deal, so there is a possibility that the UAE will reopen talks with officials over the sale of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer.
Seoul is also trying to sell its K-9 self-propelled howitzer to the UAE.