South Korea sends a navy unit to Strait of Hormuz
South Korea plans to join a US-led maritime force in the Middle East by sending a naval unit, which includes a destroyer, to help guard oil tankers sailing through the Strait of Hormuz
Tensions between Iran and the United States have increased since Washington pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
Korean spokesperson Ro Jae-cheon told a regular news briefing Monday that "It is obvious that we have to protect our ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz, isn't it? So, we're considering various possibilities.” Those “various possibilities” include helicopters along with an anti-piracy vessel operating near the coast of Somalia where piracy is known to occur.
Also last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with FOX News, referring to international efforts to secure free tanker navigation in the Strait of Hormuz:
“We’ve asked the Brits, the French, the Germans, the Norwegians, the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Australians – I’m sure I missed a few. Every country that has an interest in ensuring that those waterways are open and crude oil and other products can flow through the Straits of Hormuz needs to participate to protect not only their own interests, but the fundamental understanding of free and open waterways.”
The Cheonghae unit has been stationed in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, working to tackle piracy in partnership with African countries as well as the United States and the European Union.
The 302-strong unit operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three speed boats, according to South Korea's 2018 defence white paper.