South Korea will not backtrack on plans to send 3,600 troops to Iraq or follow Spain's footsteps by threatening a pull out, a senior official said yesterday as the government tried to quell allegations it is dragging its feet on the divisive mission ahead of hotly contested parliamentary elections. \nSouth Korea became the latest US ally in Iraq to re-examine sending troops to an increasingly violent peacekeeping effort last Friday, when it scrubbed plans for a mission to the Iraqi hotspot of Kirkuk. \nSouth Korea has promised to eventually dispatch the 3,600 troops earmarked for Iraq, but only after it finds a location where they won't have to perform offensive missions. The Kirkuk decision came after Spain announced it may pull out its troops and Poland said it was "misled" about the US-led war. \n"One of our concerns is that by changing the location, we may give the wrong impression to the public and friends that South Korea may backtrack on the commitment," the senior government official said on condition of anonymity. \n"We have to make clear we are not moving in that direction. We will abide by our commitment," he said. "Some people harbor the notion that South Korea might be following the suit of Spain. That's completely untrue." \nThe troops, to include special forces and marines, were to take complete control of relief and security needs in the region around Kirkuk, some 290km north of Baghdad. \nBut the plans were scrapped because the US military wanted to keep a contingent in the area under South Korean command that would continue raids and other offensive missions. That would be contrary to a South Korean parliamentary mandate restricting the troops to peacekeeping and reconstruction efforts. \nThe US is preparing several alternative locations for South Korean troops to secure, and Seoul will review them before making a decision, the official said. Najaf, the southern Iraqi town where Spanish troops currently operate, is one possibility, but the official declined to name other potential locations. \nThe new selection process will push back the planned April dispatch. The official would not say how long the delay would last, but denied domestic politics was playing into the decision. \nPresident Roh Moo-hyun, who supports the deployment, was impeached for unrelated reasons earlier this month, and the nation faces nationwide elections on April 15. Some had speculated that any casualties sustained by South Korean troops before the polls could tip the outcome. Others have suggested that a major upheaval in the National Assembly's makeup could impact its backing for a mission that is unpopular with the South Korean public. \nSending 3,600 troops would make South Korea the biggest coalition partner after the US and Britain. About 460 South Korean medics and military engineers have been in the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah for almost a year, and will come home when the new dispatch is made. \nThe government says sending troops will help win Washington's backing for a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear-weapons crisis. South Korea's 650,000-member military is backed by about 37,000 US troops in facing off against North Korea.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big