August 5, 2008

South Korean “Unlikely” to Send Troops to Afghanistan

Text of report in English by South Korean news agency Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) - The South Korean government is unwilling to consider sending troops to Afghanistan, even if US President George W. Bush puts the issue on the agenda of his summit talks with President Lee Myung-bak [Ri Myo'ng-pak] slated for Wednesday in Seoul, an informed source here indicated Tuesday.

Ahead of Bush's arrival in South Korea on Tuesday evening, a ranking White House official said the US president will ask South Korea to play a greater role in Afghanistan during his meeting with Lee.

"Obviously we'd like to see a greater role for South Koreans in Afghanistan, if the South Korean people are willing to move in that direction... I think that is going to be at the heart of their discussion," Dennis Wilder, senior director for Asian affairs at the US National Security Council, told reporters aboard Air Force One while en route to South Korea.

South Korea withdrew about 250 medical and engineering troops from Afghanistan last year after 23 South Korean missionaries were kidnapped by Taleban insurgents. Two of the missionaries were killed, with the rest released weeks later.

According to the source in Seoul, the Lee government is open to discussions with the US on resending troops to Afghanistan, but unlikely to respond to Bush's potential summit proposal for a South Korean troop dispatch to the country.

Originally published by Yonhap news agency, Seoul, in English 0804 5 Aug 08.

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