S Korea to attend NATO conference

10:12, December 22, 2009      

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South Korea is likely to attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conference to seek ways to strengthen cooperation with other nations in dispatching troops to Afghanistan and coordinate military operations there, local media reported Tuesday.

"We are considering sending a general-grade officer from the Joint Chief of Staffs," an unnamed military source was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency, adding attending the conference would enhance the country's "military diplomacy."

The first-ever participation in a NATO conference follows the country's decision earlier this month to send 350 troops to the war-torn Central Asian country in order to protect the South Korean Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

The troop redeployment plan, currently awaiting parliamentary approval, meets sharply split receptions from the governing party and opposition parties, prompting four opposition parties to issue a joint statement Monday to criticize the move.

South Korea pulled out of Afghanistan in 2007 when 23 South Korean Christian missionaries were held captive by the Taliban, with two of them killed and the rest released.

Since then, Seoul has only taken the role of providing medical and vocational training by assisting the United States and only two dozen South Korean volunteers work inside the U.S. Air Force Base in Bagram, north of Kabul.

Afghanistan's rebel militant group Taliban has recently issued a threat against the planned troop dispatch, which South Korea's defense ministry last week played down by calling it "conventional."

Source: Xinhua
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