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'ROK to Command Multinational Division in Iraq'


'ROK to Command Multinational Division in Iraq'

The United States has requested South Korea take command of one multinational division in Iraq, and asked Seoul for the dispatch of combat troops between brigade and division-level in size, a ranking U.S. official was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Richard Lawless, deputy U.S. assistant defense secretary, told visiting opposition Grand National Party chairman Choe Byung-yul at a lunch meeting in Washington, D.C. that the U.S. wants Korea to take up a major role in the post-war peace-building mission in Iraq, Choe¡¯s spokesman Park Jin said.

¡°Lawless said his request for the troop dispatch made to South Korea earlier this month included the South Korean troops assuming a central role in commanding and managing an army division of multinational forces ,¡± Park said.

As for the number of Korean troops, Park said Washington requested a ¡°self-sustainable¡± size of troops somewhere between a brigade, consisting of some 3,000 soldiers, and a division made up of 10,000.

Lawless, who visited Cheong Wa Dae on Sept. 4 asking officials for the dispatch of additional, combat troops to Iraq, strongly dismissed media reports that the U.S. threatened to pull out its 2nd Infantry Division if South Korea did not comply with the request.

¡°He said it was a `completely irrelevant¡¯ story,¡± the GNP spokesman said, adding Lawless brushed off accusations that the request was made in an imposing manner.

Choe assured that Korea will finalize a decision after checking the justifications of the troop dispatch and the size, cost, and roles the troops would be taking.

The leader of the conservative party, which holds the majority vote in the National Assembly, received a red-carpet welcome in this U.S. visit, meeting with officials including National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton.

¡°The U.S. government wants to settle the issue through the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Bangkok from Oct. 21-22 and the annual Security Consultative Meeting from Oct. 24-25th in Seoul, for which U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will visit Korea,¡± Park said.

If Seoul accepts the U.S.¡¯ demand, it would mark the first time Korea has taken the helm of a multinational army division in a conflict outside the Korean Peninsula.

Meanwhile, the government on Thursday convened a National Security Council standing committee meeting at Cheong Wa Dae to discuss the troop dispatch issue, deciding to send an inspection team of a dozen members to Iraq to survey the situation.

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