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Seoul yet to decide on sending Cheonghae Unit to Strait of Hormuz

The Ministry of National Defense Ministry said Thursday that it has not yet decided on sending the anti-piracy Cheonghae Unit to the Strait of Hormuz in response to Washington’s request to forge a coalition against Iran’s military activities amid heightened tensions with Tehran.

“Sending (Cheonghae Unit) to the Strait of Hormuz has not been decided. … We are considering various ways to protect our vessels in the area, and are closely observing the situation,” the ministry said.

“We are reviewing whether to take part in the US-led coalition due to the need to protect our ships and people. … We will decide prudently from the perspective of national interests.”

Dong-a Ilbo reported on Thursday that Seoul has decided to expand the mission area of the Cheonghae Unit, which is currently conducting maritime security operations against piracy in the Gulf of Aden, to the Strait of Hormuz.

Although the ministry has denied it, chances are high that the 4,400-ton destroyer Kang Gam Chan, which will lead the Cheonghae Unit, will participate in the US-led collation in Hormuz.

The 4,400-ton destroyer Kang Gam Chan (Yonhap)
The 4,400-ton destroyer Kang Gam Chan (Yonhap)

The Kang Gam Chan left Busan on Tuesday to run anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia for six months, starting in September.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said during his meeting with Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo last week in Seoul that he expects the international community’s cooperation for the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.

Sending the Cheonghae Unit to the waters off Iran does not require additional parliamentary approval. It has been deployed in the past to rescue Koreans taken hostage by pirates near Libya and Ghana.

The Kang Gam Chan is said to have reinforced its antisubmarine weapons system before it left Busan on Tuesday.

It takes a month before the troops arrive in the Gulf of Aden, and another four days from there to the Strait of Hormuz.

By Kim So-hyun (