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S. Korea to spend $500m to aid Afghanistan

South Korea will be spending $500 million within the next five-year period to increase its contribution to ongoing international peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry announced Friday following the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin.

Revamping its Afghan strategy, Washington has been broadening the mission to include pressure on neighboring Pakistan in a bid to root out the Taliban and al-Qaida, seeking bigger roles from countries including South Korea, Japan and China.

Korea’s financial aid commitment of about $180 million, or 0.15 percent of the global total, in particular, has been viewed as too small compared to the country’s general economic status.

The two-day talks between the 48 countries, which contribute to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, was held from Thursday with Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Kim Jae-shin taking part as representative of South Korea.

As the first meeting of foreign ministers since NATO leaders approved the alliance’s new Strategic Concept at a summit in Lisbon in November, members were gathered to discuss detailed roles in working with partners to find cooperative solutions to common threats.

At the Lisbon summit, NATO and Afghanistan agreed on “an Enduring Partnership” on cooperation which will last beyond the targeted end of NATO combat operations in 2014. From July, the U.S. agreed to begin the responsible reduction of its forces and hand over peacekeeping duties to Afghan’s own police and military.

During this week’s meeting, also joined by representatives of NATO and the U.N., ministers discussed concrete cooperation initiatives to put such goals into practice in the war-torn nation.

“There has been a persisting need for us to increase contribution to the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan,” Deputy Minister Kim told reporters earlier this week before heading to Berlin, citing the smallness of Seoul’s previous aid.

First beginning to provide troops and financial aid to the security of Afghanistan since 2002, South Korea has so far made a contribution of some $180 million in large contrasts to $37 billion by the U.S. and $3.15 billion by neighboring Japan. Canada, meanwhile, has provided an aid of $1.25 billion, followed by the Netherlands’ $1 billion and Australia’s $650 million, according to the Foreign Ministry here.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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