PSPD People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
[Statement] The National Assembly Should Reject the Unconstitutional Motion to Extend the Deployment of Troops in the UAE
- 2018.11.20 (10:56:23)
The National Assembly Should Reject the Unconstitutional Motion to Extend the Deployment of Troops in the UAE.
The deployment has been continuously extended with little scrutiny, after initially being rammed through the National Assembly. It is time to bring back the troops.
The bill on the ‘Extension of the deployment of national armed forces in the UAE for purposes including and not limited to training the UAE military’ is awaiting evaluation by the National Defense Committee of the National Assembly. The unconstitutional dispatch of troops to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was initially rammed through the National Assembly in 2010, despite strong objections from opposition parties and civil society. For the following 8 years, the deployment of the Akh Unit has been extended with little scrutiny. We strongly urge the National Assembly to reject the groundless motion to extend the deployment of troops in the UAE.
First, the dispatch of troops to the UAE is unconstitutional. Bundled with the contract for the construction of nuclear power plants in the UAE, South Korean troops were effectively deployed for commercial purposes. This clearly departs from the duty of the national army delineated in the constitution as “national security and defense of national territory.” Although all opposition parties objected to the deployment of troops in 2010 for precisely this reason, the then ruling party disregarded the standing committee procedures and enforced the issue through the ex officio proposal of the speaker. Ever since, the National Assembly has failed to correct its mistake, and instead has approved motions to extend the deployment of troops with no resistance. This makes the National Assembly complicit in an unconstitutional activity, and shows a lack of will to monitor policies regarding the overseas dispatch of armed forces.
The government claims that the purpose of continuing the deployment of troops in the UAE is the ‘promotion of national interest.’ ‘Promotion of national interest’ may sound like a valid justification, but it is in essence empty rhetoric that serves only to rebrand the economic profits made through the export of weapons and nuclear power plants into patriotism. Dispatching troops in the name of ‘national interest’, representing unverified monetary gains for an unknown group of people, is clearly unconstitutional.
Second, the deployment of Korean troops in the UAE is linked to the Yemeni civil war. The Yemeni civil war that started in 2015 has resulted in over 10,000 deaths, has left tens of thousands injured, and has displaced up to 2.5 million people. According to the Yemen-Data-Project, from the beginning of the conflict up until June 2018, there were a total of 16,847 air raids, a third of which targeted non-military facilities located in civilian residential districts. The hundreds of Yemeni refugees who travelled halfway across the world to seek asylum in Korea were fleeing from precisely these air raids. This UN designated humanitarian disaster is a de-facto proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and continues with no end in sight.
In this setting, the UAE military is involved in the Yemeni civil war as part of the Saudi Arabian led coalition. In particular, a large part of the UAE ground forces involved in the Yemeni civil war are from special forces, who are trained by the Korean Akh Unit. By increasing weapon sales to the region and deploying the Akh Unit in the UAE, Korea is in effect exacerbating the Yemeni civil war. Last December, the Houthi rebels of Yemen announced that they launched cruise missiles aimed at the nuclear power plants under construction by Korea in Baraka. In addition, the UAE has long been embroiled in a territorial dispute with Iran regarding the ownership of three islands in the Strait of Hormuz.
Training and increasing military cooperation with the UAE military, which is actively involved in the Yemeni civil war, cannot be done in the name of peace in the Middle East. Therefore, the deployment of Korean troops in the UAE is in clear violation of the principles of maintaining world peace as stated in the constitution. Moreover, the presence of Korean troops in the region increases the chance of Korea getting entangled in the local power struggle.
Third, the contents of the secret military pact made by the Lee Myung-bak government and the UAE government are still unknown. Last January, it was revealed that the Lee Myung-bak government signed a secret military pact with the UAE in the process of winning the contract for construction of nuclear power plants, without consent from the National Assembly. This secret military pact even contained a clause on the automatic involvement of the Korean military in cases of emergency in the UAE. This is an extremely dangerous clause that may entangle the Korean military in local conflicts. Secretly entering into an automatic military intervention agreement seriously encroaches on the National Assembly’s right to consent to forming treaties, as well as the people’s rights to life and peace.
However, there has been no thorough investigation into this matter, and those responsible have not been held to account. With the Moon Jae-in government emphasizing an increase in defense cooperation with the UAE, the controversy has been sealed shut. The suspected illicit relationship between Korea-UAE defense cooperation, and the nuclear power plant construction deal, warrants a thorough investigation. Such an investigation is a task of paramount importance that goes beyond political affiliation, but the government and National Assembly have turned a blind eye. If the National Assembly agrees to the extension of the military deployment without further inquiry, we cannot but question the very raison d'être of the National Assembly.
The motion to extend the military deployment in the UAE, which passed the National Assembly in 2012, included a clause that required ‘the establishment and report of a new agreement with the UAE concerning the duration and tactical employment of the Akh Unit. However, this clause has not been enforced. There is no reason to extend the deployment of Korean forces in the UAE when there is no clear agenda or even a prospective end date.
The decision to dispatch the military overseas or to extend their stay has to be made with utmost caution. Sending armed forces overseas does not automatically contribute to world peace and conflict resolution, and it is difficult to predict the unexpected side effects of military deployment. However, the government essentially takes this issue for granted. Every year the government prepares the budget for the extension of this overseas deployment, before approval is even given by the National Assembly. This year, 9.2 billion won (USD$8.1 million) has already been allocated for the UAE deployment budget. We strongly urge the National Assembly to correct their past mistakes, and reject the unconstitutional motion to extend the military deployment in the UAE.