TEHRAN (Press Shia) – South Korea said it has fully explained its reasons to Iran for its latest decision to temporarily expand the operational area of its “anti-piracy unit” from the Gulf of Aden to the Strait of Hormuz.
“In consideration of the current situation in the Middle East, the government has decided to temporarily expand the Cheonghae Unit’s sphere of activity in order to guarantee safety of our people and the freedom of navigation of vessels,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said on Tuesday, Nikkie Asia Review reported.
It added that the 302-strong Cheonghae Unit will not officially join the US-led so-called International Maritime Security Construct, but will rather conduct independent operations in the Strait of Hormuz.
“Since May last year, when tensions began to heighten in the Middle East, we’ve been reviewing diverse options,” a senior Defense Ministry official said. “We had consultations with the US regarding the matter, and explained fully our stance and reasons for the decision to Iran.”
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 US and the European Union.
According to South Korea’s 2018 defense white paper, the naval task force operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three-speed boats.
The United States has been trying to persuade its allies into an international coalition with the declared aim of providing “security” for merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and other strategic Middle Eastern shipping lanes.
Several countries have turned a cold shoulder to the US-led alliance, arguing that it could lead to tensions with Iran.