Monday, August 17, 2009

S. Korean Marines to Join PKO Drills in Mongolia

South Korea will dispatch a platoon of Marines for the first time to a multinational peacekeeping exercise to be held in Mongolia later this month, government officials said. Korea has participated in the annual ``Khan Quest'' exercise since 2006 as an observer by sending working-level officers.

This year's exercise will take place from Aug. 15 to 25 at a training camp, about 40 miles west of the capital Ulan Bator, officials at the Ministry of National Defense said. Since 2001, the general staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces, with the support of the U.S. Pacific Command, has organized the summer peacekeeping exercise.

For the first five years, only Mongolian and U.S. troops participated in the exercise. The joint drills have expanded since then to include many other countries. About 450 troops from some 20 nations, including Germany, India, Bangladesh and Cambodia, are to take part in this year's exercise.

During Khan Quest, instructors, who have experience in peacekeeping operations overseas, lead practical lessons in realistic conditions. Troops also introduce their weapons and military vehicles to each other. Korea has actively participated in peacekeeping operations overseas. Currently, about 350 soldiers are stationed in Lebanon, while a 300-strong naval unit is conducting an anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia.

In June, the government announced a plan to establish a 3,000-strong standby peacekeeping unit that can be rapidly deployed to troubled regions.

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