UPDATE : 2018.9.20 THU 12:21
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Moon visits S. Korean troops in UAE

South Korean President Moon Jae-in highlighted his country's defense cooperation with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Tuesday with a rare visit to the base of a South Korean contingent stationed here.

The visit to the South Korean Akh unit came two days after Moon and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan agreed to upgrade their countries' strategic partnership to a "special strategic partnership," making the UAE the first Middle Eastern country to have established such a relationship with South Korea.

Moon arrived here Saturday on a four-day official visit.

The 130-strong Akh unit has been stationed here since January 2011 to help train UAE troops and also protect South Korean residents here in case of an armed conflict. Currently, there are 138 South Korean service members stationed here, according to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

"President Moon's visit to the Akh unit, which is a symbol of defense cooperation between South Korea and the UAE and an example of mutual cooperation, marked a chance to reaffirm the countries' strong defense cooperation," Moon's office said of the visit.

The president sought to cheer each and every member of the Akh unit, visiting with them over snacks, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

His visit also partly confirmed Seoul's continued commitment to the military training program.

While meeting South Korean residents in Abu Dhabi on Monday, the South Korean president said the two countries will become brothers in accordance with the meaning of the name of the South Korean unit, Akh, in Arabic.

"The two countries will become true brothers that look into the next 100 years, just as the name of the 'Akh' unit means," he said.

More than 1,700 South Korean soldiers have served under the Akh unit so far.

Moon will head to Dubai later in the day to meet Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, before returning home, ending his four-day trip here.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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