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S. Korea to send rotational troops to South Sudan after delay amid coronavirus

All News 10:17 May 18, 2020

By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea was to send rotational peacekeeping troops to South Sudan on a chartered flight Monday, after months of delay due to the coronavirus, the defense ministry said.

On its way back, the flight will make a stopover in Ethiopia to bring home South Korean citizens stranded on the African continent amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry said.

The 12th batch for the 300-strong Hanbit Unit was supposed to be in the war-torn nation in March on peacekeeping missions, but their dispatch has been delayed as South Sudan asked Seoul and other foreign nations not to send fresh troops due to the coronavirus.

In late March, most members of the existing contingent returned home without replacement, with only dozens of troops staying there to perform basic surveillance duties until a fresh contingent arrives.

The deployment of the rotational troops came after South Sudan allowed their arrival in an exception to entry restrictions.

"The ministry has made diplomatic efforts with the government of South Sudan and U.N. for the swift deployment of the 12th batch, and Hanbit Unit becomes the only exception to the country's entry ban among international troops stationed there," a ministry official said.

On its way back home, the Asiana Airline flight, which is to transport the troops, will stop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where around 200 South Korean citizens residing in African nations are planning to board the flight home.

Following Monday's departure of the first echelon, the remaining troops will head to South Sudan on June 1, according to the ministry.

"The troops to be newly deployed have been quarantined for over five weeks and have all tested negative for the coronavirus," a ministry 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, he added.

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.

Members of South Korea's Hanbit Unit arrive at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on March 28, 2020, after their eight-month mission in South Sudan, in this photo provided by the defense ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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