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S. Korea calls Taliban warning psychological rhetoric

All Headlines 12:00 December 16, 2009

By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Dec. 16 (Yonhap) -- The Taliban's warning against South Korea's planned deployment of troops to Afghanistan amounts to routine rhetoric served up as part of psychological warfare, Seoul's defense ministry said Wednesday.

The Taliban threatened "bad consequences" last week after South Korea announced it would deploy up to 350 troops to Afghanistan with a mission of protecting its civilian reconstruction workers there.

The Ministry of National Defense, in a booklet distributed to local news outlets, described the threat as "conventional" and said it constitutes a method of "sophisticated psychological warfare."

"It is our assessment that the threat is conventional and is aimed at stemming the deployment of our troops by stoking opposition within South Korea," it said.

The booklet was provided as part of the defense minister's meeting with editorial writers from South Korean news companies, including Yonhap News Agency.

"The announcement of the Taliban statement had been sufficiently foreseen," it added.

The U.S. announced early this month that it would increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan by 30,000, in an effort to tamp down violence and assist reconstruction efforts in the country.

South Korea followed up with its own plans to deploy a regular contingent of 320 troops from July next year through the end of 2012 in Parwan Province. The motion, which also allows for the deployment of four helicopters, is subject to approval by the National Assembly where the ruling party holds the majority.

The booklet, which said the deployment could be retracted at any time "depending on the situation," noted the Taliban threat, in essence, did not single out South Korea but targeted all countries sending troops to Afghanistan.

The Taliban, seen as operating with Al Qaeda in the Central Asian country, claimed on Dec. 9 that Seoul promised not to re-deploy troops when the sides negotiated the fate of 23 South Korean Christian missionaries held captive in 2007.

Two of the missionaries were killed, and the rest released. South Korea says it never made the promise during the negotiations, which led to the withdrawal of its 200 military medics and engineers from Afghanistan.


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