According to military sources, the 4,400-ton destroyer Wang Geon of the Cheonghae anti-piracy unit is scheduled to leave Busan late this month to relieve the destroyer Kang Gam-chan which is currently operating in the Gulf of Aden.
The Wang Geon is expected to arrive in the Gulf of Aden in mid-January, and start anti-piracy operations and escorting vessels from February.
|The 4,400-ton destroyer Kang Gam Chan (Yonhap)|
Sources said the South Korean government is likely to join the coalition, known as the International Maritime Security Construct, by changing the Wang Geon’s operation region to the Strait of Hormuz.
The move comes after months of pressure from the US to forge a coalition against Iran’s military activities amid tensions due to new economic sanctions against Tehran after Washington backed out from a 2015 nuclear deal last year.
South Korea is leaning toward accepting the US request in consideration of their alliance, cooperation on North Korea and negotiations on defense cost-sharing.
Seoul is reviewing plans to dispatch a field-grade commissioned officer to the Bahrain-based IMSC around January, and then change the operational area of the Wang Geon.
One of the four South Korean field-grade officers already working at the Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain is likely to be sent to the IMSC.
News reports said that Seoul decided to take part in the joint operation to defend shipping routes between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula during a Blue House National Security Council meeting last Thursday, and informed Washington of its decision.
The Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday that the government was still “reviewing various plans to protect South Korean vessels and people regarding the IMSC in the Strait of Hormuz, and nothing has been decided yet.”
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com)