x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Sth Korea sending troops to UAE is 'turning point'

South Korea's decision to send 150 troops to the UAE to train Emirati soldiers in counter-terrorism has been described as 'a turning point' for the Asian nation.

BEIJING // The South Korean National Assembly's overwhelming approval for sending special forces troops to the UAE to provide military training is a "turning point" for the Asian nation, a political analyst says.

The proposal was passed on Wednesday by 149 votes to two, another indication of the strengthening ties between the two countries.

Under the initiative, 150 troops will travel to the UAE to train Emirati soldiers in counterterrorism and counter-insurgency.

South Korea's defence ministry revealed the proposal last month following approval from the country's cabinet.

Seo Jeong-min, a professor of Middle East politics at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, said yesterday that the sending of the troops to the UAE was the first such move of its kind.

"This is the first time for Korea to dispatch troops to a peaceful area," he said. "It's a turning point in the activities of Korean troops. We may have some [more] security and military co-operation with the UAE and further Arab countries."

Economic links between the two countries have grown as increasing numbers of South Korean companies have undertaken major construction projects in the UAE. The UAE also supplies 14 per cent of South Korea's oil.

Ties were cemented late last year when the UAE chose a South Korean-led consortium to supply four nuclear energy reactors to the UAE in a deal valued at Dh73.4bn.

The vote in South Korea's National Assembly was marked by six abstentions when members of an opposition party boycotted the vote as part of a separate dispute partly related to the country's budget proposals.