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North Korea Talks Big Factor in Troop Dispatch


North Korea Talks Big Factor in Troop Dispatch

President Roh Moo-hyun said on Wednesday (Oct. 1) that the nation’s dispatch of combat troops to Iraq would be possible only when peace and stability on the Korean peninsula is certain.

“The most important factor in reviewing the issue of troop dispatch will be whether we will have positive prospects and firm conviction on the peace and stability on the peninsula through the formation of a stable atmosphere for dialogue,” Roh said during a ceremony marking the nation’s 55th Armed Forces Day.

Roh said the government is seriously considering the U.S.-requested dispatch of combat troops to the Middle Eastern nation, taking domestic opinions and the international situation into account.

Roh’s statement drew attention as it was largely interpreted as an indication that the Seoul government will link the possible dispatch of combat troops to the protracted second round of six-way talks on the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Cheong Wa Dae has repeatedly said that it doesn’t have any intention to link the two issues. Presidential spokesman Yoon Tae-young told reporters that Roh’s remarks are not a signal of change in Cheong Wa Dae’s position on the issue. “We still do not intend to directly tie a decision on the troop dispatch to the six-way talks.”

The U.S. has been pressing South Korea to send some 5,000 combat troops to Iraq to help stabilize the war-torn country, a move which has triggered fierce dispute between conservative and progressive forces in the government.

Roh said the government has also been cautiously deliberating the matter in consideration of national security and the state of Iraq’s domestic situation.

“Another important factor will be the formation of international consensus regarding the restoration of peace and stability in Iraq. We will come up with our final decision after assessing what the Iraqi people want and the opinions of other Middle Eastern nations,” Roh said.

Mindful of the divided opinions regarding the matter, Roh cautioned that the nation should not make a decision in a way that undermines national integrity. “The government is doing everything to make the best decision that satisfies the people’s wishes.”

The head of state underlined the country’s need to be equipped with the capability to defend itself within 10 years.

However, he said he would not belittle the importance of the half-century-old alliance between South Korea and the United States.

“The alliance has been the buttress that has solidified the peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia and has been a pillar in maintaining world peace,” he said.

Touching upon the issue of realignment of U.S. Forces Korea, Roh said, “The two countries will continue to closely coordinate on the issue so that the planned realignment will not weaken our deterrence abilities.”

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