Hormuz troop dispatch plan causes political controversy

SEOUL– The South Korean government’s decision to send troops to the Strait of Hormuz triggered political debate, with the ruling and opposition parties at odds over the highly controversial issue, especially on the subject of whether parliamentary approval is needed.

The Ministry of National Defense announced its plan on Tuesday to provisionally expand the operational area of the anti-piracy Cheonghae unit stationed in the Gulf of Aden so it can be deployed to the critical transportation chokepoint.

The ruling Democratic Party said it “respects” the decision made in consideration of the people’s security and safety and diplomatic relations.

“It’s inevitable (for South Korea) to fulfill its international duty within the minimum scope, as the Strait of Hormuz is related to our economic interest, in particular energy security,” party spokesperson Rep. Lee Jae-jung said in a statement.

The party said the dispatch plan does not require the National Assembly’s approval as the government is not sending a new unit.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party concurred on the need for dispatching troops to assist the international maritime security campaign.

But it said that there needs to be a review of the issue of the National Assembly’s consent, as the move involves changes in the operational area, mission and budget.

“It’s regrettable that the main opposition party has been sidelined in the process of deciding the troop dispatch,” party spokesman Rep. Kim Sung-won said.

The minor opposition Bareunmirae Party said the government should receive parliamentary approval for the move.

Rep. Kim Jong-dae of the progressive Justice Party said it’s risky for the government to seek to send troops to the strait without the National Assembly’s approval.

“(We) are firmly opposed to a troop dispatch that threatens the security of the people,” he said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency