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S. Korean troops ready for possible Afghan mission: minister

All Headlines 15:33 October 23, 2009

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's defense chief said Friday that his military is readying for "any request" from the government to provide assistance to Afghanistan.

"The military is making preparations to meet every demand from the government," Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told lawmakers, adding South Korea needs to make appropriate contributions as an ally to the United States.

"The government will decide whether to dispatch troops, and the military is reviewing how to carry out any government decision," Kim said.

He reaffirmed that the U.S. has not directly requested that Seoul dispatch troops to Afghanistan, apparently due to understanding of the political reality here.

Kim said the government is comprehensively reviewing its future contributions including financial support, expansion of civilian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), and sending personnel to protect the PRT members.

"The government is considering national interest, public opinion, and international trends," he said.

South Korea pulled its 200-strong construction and medical units out of Afghanistan in 2007. It has since dispatched about a two dozen civilian workers to help reconstruction of the war-wracked country.

Seoul said it would increase the number of the PRT workers to around 90 by the end of this year and build a large-scale hospital and job-training center inside the U.S. Air Force Base in Bagram, north of Kabul.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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