Former President Lee “directly involved” in signing secret military pacts with UAE: lawmaker

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Jan 17, 2018 - 15:43
  • Updated : Jan 17, 2018 - 15:44
Former President Lee Myung-bak was involved in signing secret military pacts with the United Arab Emirates, a progressive opposition lawmaker said Wednesday, adding fuel to political controversy surrounding the former president.

Rep. Kim Jong-dae of the minor Justice Party claimed that Lee was involved in bringing about the military pact that includes dispatching South Korean troops to the UAE. The agreement was tantamount to a mutual defense treaty, requiring Korea to send its troops to the UAE in the event of a contingency, Kim said.

The lawmaker added it was former Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan who finalized the deal in December 2009 -- not former Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, who recently acknowledged in a media interview that he signed the military pacts with the UAE in November 2009. Lawmaker Kim said the process was only “provisional.”

“Former President Lee lies at the center of the controversy surrounding the signing of the secret military pacts,” the lawmaker said in an interview with Korean radio broadcaster TBS, claiming Lee was “directly involved” in having the former Foreign Minister officially sign the deal. 

Rep. Kim Jong-dae of the minor Justice Party. Yonhap

The lawmaker, however, declined to specify the scope of the former president’s involvement -- such as whether Lee had given direct instructions to his Cabinet members. Kim was not immediately available for comments.

The Lee administration signed four military pacts with the UAE after South Korea was awarded a contract to construct four nuclear reactors in 2009. The pacts were neither ratified by the National Assembly nor revealed to the public until late 2010. Details of the pacts remain classified.

The military pacts, most of which were reportedly signed as memorandums of understanding, include clauses that mandate the two countries establish combined command and control systems as well as develop joint military plans and operational doctrine, lawmaker Kim claimed.

“If a progressive government had been found to have done such things, the conservatives would have foamed at the mouth and accused them of treason,” said the lawmaker on his Facebook account. “Even if they did it for the sake of national interest, they have to be held accountable for wrongdoings”

The controversy first surfaced when President Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff Im Jong-seok was found to have visited the UAE last year. It sparked rumors that the trip was aimed at easing the UAE’s complaints about the Moon administration’s nuclear power phase-out policy.