[Captured Article] The Hindu News Update Service
Seoul, Nov. 18.(AP): South Korea plans to bring home about one-third of its troops from Iraq next year, the Defense Ministry said Friday.
Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung reported the plan to withdraw about 1,000 troops from Iraq to the ruling Uri Party on Friday, the ministry said. About 3,200 South Korean troops are stationed in northern Iraq to help rehabilitate the country, making Seoul the second-largest U.S. coalition partner contributing forces after Britain.
The announcement comes a day after South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun met U.S. President George W. Bush in the South Korean city of Gyeongju, where the leaders insisted their countries’ alliance was strong and agreed to work together to curb North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
South Korea’s move caught the White House by surprise. “They have not informed the United States government of that,” said National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones.
Jones said Roh didn’t raise the subject of troop withdrawals with Bush when they met Thursday in Gyeongju.
“This issue was not raised,” Jones said. “Just the opposite.”
He said Bush expressed appreciation for the South Korean troops and Roh expressed pride in the accomplishments of the South Korean forces.