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Utopia Talk / Politics / brotherly ties
| Sat Mar 03 09:34:38|
Ex-defense minister admits secret military deal with UAE
Posted : 2018-01-09 15:58
Updated : 2018-01-09 18:45
By Kim Rahn
A former defense minister has admitted that South Korea reached a secret deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2009 to send troops to the Middle Eastern country if it became engaged in a military conflict.
In an interview published Tuesday, Kim Tae-young, who served as defense minister under the Lee Myung-bak administration, said he decided to keep the deal a secret due to a possible backlash here.
The revelation is causing a stir, as officials of the Lee government have claimed there were no secret deals with the UAE linked to a nuclear plant project there. The suspicions regarding secret deals have triggered rumors about former administrations and the nuclear project, which emerged after presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok visited the country in December.
Kim said the two countries agreed in 2009 that Korean troops would automatically intervene if the UAE became involved in a military conflict.
According to the Constitution, dispatching troops to a foreign country, either combat or non-combat units, requires the National Assembly's consent. To avoid controversy among the public and protests by opposition parties, the Lee administration decided to make it a closed provision that did not require parliamentary approval, Kim said.
"If the Assembly did not approve the dispatch, all our efforts (to win the bid for the nuclear project) would have been wasted. So I insisted the issue not be brought to the Assembly, saying I would take responsibility if anything went wrong," he told the JoongAng Ilbo. "From the current point of view, it (the secrecy) may be problematic, but at that time it was the best choice for the national interest."
Kim said the agreement was inevitable to win the bid for the nuclear power plant project in the UAE, saying the project and a military agreement were like a package deal and winning the bid was impossible without the agreement.
"They wanted Korean troops to be there if the country had military trouble. In peacetime, they wanted the troops to help train the UAE's military."
Kim said he thought the chances of Korean troops actually being involved in fighting were very low because the UAE has not been at war for a long time.
However, despite the automatic intervention agreement, he said dispatching Korean troops in the case of conflict there would be impossible without the Assembly's approval.
At the end of 2009, probably due to the secret agreement, the Lee government won the 20 trillion won project to build four reactors in the UAE. The then ruling party unilaterally passed a bill to deploy the "Akh" unit in December 2010 amid the opposition bloc's strong protest, and the unit was dispatched about a month later. It has been assisting in the training of UAE soldiers ever since.
Regarding Kim's revelation, Rep. Kim Jong-dae of the minor opposition Justice Party said it was unconstitutional and undemocratic to make such an agreement without reporting it to and getting approval from the Assembly.
"Kim says the two countries agreed to form brotherly ties, but at the same time he says dispatching troops would be impossible without parliamentary consent. The Lee administration deceived the UAE as well, not to mention the Korean people," the lawmaker said.
Members of the National Assembly Defense Committee plan to visit the UAE later this month. Although it has been customary for members of the committee to visit countries where Korean troops are dispatched, the planned visit this time is gaining attention amid the controversy over the secret deal.
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