South Korea deploys 150 troops to UAE for military cooperation

South Korea will send its seventh cohort of troops to the UAE this month as part of a joint military cooperation effort.

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ABU DHABI // South Korea is to send its seventh batch of troops to the UAE this month as part of a military cooperation.

One hundred and fifty soldiers will be deployed in Al Ain, taking over from troops that were deployed in early July, the South Korean embassy in Abu Dhabi confirmed on Thursday.

During a farewell ceremony at a training centre in Gwangju, south of Seoul, on Monday, the South Korean army chief, Kwon Oh-sung, called for “utmost efforts” among the new soldiers, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

“The Ahk unit is made up of the first South Korean troops deployed overseas for military cooperation activities since the establishment of the South Korean army,” Mr Kwon said.

“I hope all the soldiers will have pride and make every effort to accomplish their missions.”

Last month, the South Korean defence minister, Kim Kwan-jin, visited the UAE for talks with his counterpart on increasing military and defence-industry cooperation between the countries. The delegation also visited South Korea’s military contingent in Al Ain.

The embassy official said the Ahk unit had been stationed in Al Ain since 2011 to help train UAE troops in anti-terrorism efforts, including anti-hijacking operations, counter-insurgency actions and parachute infiltration, while conducting joint drills.

Experts said the joint military cooperation was of great importance to the UAE.

“The problem is with North Korea, not the South,” said Dr Mustafa Alani, director of the national security and terrorism programme at the Gulf Research Centre.

“One of the instruments they use in their policy is terrorism, especially against South Korea, so they have accumulated a good amount of experience in this field as they are under constant threat from North Korea.”

He said South Korea’s army was quite organised.

“They’re highly qualified and they have an advantage over a lot of other forces and countries,” he said. “Besides their experience, they have a good system of training and qualification.”

The first contingent of South Korean troops set off for the UAE in December 2010. They were part of a growing number of military personnel dispatched around the world by Seoul.

The national assembly had, at the time, approved 130 troops to be deployed for two years in the UAE.

“They are also not coming with any political conditions,” Dr Alani said. “When you go to these big states, there are political conditions and restrictions, but South Korea is not involved in any problems in the region so they are doing the job professionally.

“This makes them a good candidate to be used.”

The South Korean government will have to decide later on the amount of time the new troops will be deployed in the UAE.

The UAE and South Korea have deepened their bilateral relations in recent years and the South Korean military deployment in the UAE is not the first.

In June 2011, the UAE invited specialist naval forces from South Korea to provide counter-piracy training as part of efforts to boost its defence against the growing high-seas threat.

Ten underwater demolition troops arrived a month later, in addition to the special forces that were already stationed in Al Ain.

Earlier that year, South Korea had successfully freed a ship from Somali pirates. Its navy commandos also rescued the South Korean cargo ship Samho Jewellery, which had been hijacked in the Arabian Sea en route from the UAE to Sri Lanka.