SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to send rotational peacekeeping troops to South Sudan starting this month, after months of delay due to the coronavirus, the defense ministry said Tuesday.
A fresh batch of troops for its 300-strong Hanbit Unit was supposed to be in the war-torn nation in March on peacekeeping missions, but the replacement was delayed at the request of South Sudan due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of the unit members returned home on March 27 on a chartered flight without replacement, with dozens staying there to perform basic surveillance duties until a fresh contingent arrives.
"We will push to replace the 12th batch of the Hanbit Unit on two occasions: on May 18 and June 1, as South Sudan approved the arrival of South Korean troops late last month as an exception to its entry ban on foreigners," a ministry official said.
The ministry will arrange Asiana Airlines flights to transport the troops. On its way back, the first plane plans to stop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where South Korean citizens residing in African nations will board the flight home, the official said.
"The remaining troops of the 11th batch will return home in June after all the new members arrive there and complete transfer duties," a ministry official said.
South Korea began troop deployments to South Sudan in 2013 at the U.N.'s request in accordance with a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at assisting peaceful reconstruction work.
The African nation declared its independence from its Arab-dominated northern neighbor, Sudan, in July 2011 after decades of civil war that killed more than 2 million people.
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