South Korea approves Iraq troop reduction plan

South Korea's National Assembly approved on Friday a government plan to bring home nearly one-third of the country's troops stationed in Iraq while extending the overall deployment for another year. The assembly approved the plan in a 110-31 vote with 17 abstentions.

The plan calls for the withdrawal of about 1,000 of South Korea's 3,200 military personnel working in a Kurdish area of northern Iraq to help rebuild the Middle Eastern country. Seoul's troop contribution makes it the second-largest U.S. coalition partner after Britain. The current deployment would have expired at the end of this year without the vote to extend it.

The reduction will begin in the first half of next year, said Ahn Young-keun, a ruling Uri Party lawmaker. The deployment is unpopular among South Koreans worried about security concerns. Negative sentiment has dissipated somewhat over the past two years because there have been no major incidents.

The South Korean government believes the deployment will help strengthen its alliance with Washington, whose support it needs to help resolve the dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, reports the AP. I.L.

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