Japan, South Korea preparing troop dispatch to Iraq
Japan plans to dispatch the first of two large contingents of ground troops to Iraq in late February, a newspaper reported on Wednesday, as South Korea also began finalizing plans to send peacekeepers to the war-torn country.
The Japanese Defense Agency submitted the deployment schedule to the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling bloc for approval on Tuesday, the Mainichi paper reported.
It was the first indication that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's administration is drawing up detailed plans since his Cabinet last week approved a basic blueprint to send 1,000 military personnel focusing on humanitarian aid, including restoring water service and rebuilding schools in southern Iraq.
According to the latest scheme, about 135 troops would leave for Iraq on February 21, after the first advance team of ground troops - about 28 people - has had about a month to prepare for their arrival in the southern city of Samawah, according to the Mainichi report.
They will stay at the Dutch military's base camp there, it said. About 550 others, who will make up the bulk of the deployment, are expected to be in Iraq by late March, the newspaper said. An advance team of 78 soldiers would leave on January 31.
Air force personnel will be based in neighboring Kuwait, with the first team of 12 expected to leave on December 25. Transport aircraft, including three C-130 planes, would be there by mid-January to begin flying supplies into Iraq, it said.
Armored vehicles and other heavy equipment would be shipped on January 14, the paper said.
In the meantime, South Korea began finalizing plans on Wednesday to send 3,000 troops to Iraq, South Korean National Security Adviser Ra Jong-il said.
The soldiers will work on peacekeeping and reconstruction missions, joining an estimated 460 South Korean medics and military engineers already positioned in the region.
President Roh Moo-hyun met with security-related Cabinet ministers early Wednesday and approved the plan, Ra said. (Albawaba.com)
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