S. Korea Budgets 6 Billion Won for Naval Operation in Somalia

From Yonhap News on 13 Nov 08:

SEOUL, Nov. 13 (Yonhap) — The South Korean government will seek parliamentary approval of its decision to send a warship to Somali waters to combat piracy there, a project expected to cost about 6 billion won (US$4.2 million), a senior government official said Thursday.

“The government has decided to dispatch a naval ship to Somali waters and plans to submit a related motion to the National Assembly during its ongoing session (to end on Dec. 8),” the official told Yonhap News Agency on the condition of anonymity. The country’s constitution requires any troop dispatch outside its territory to receive the National Assembly’s endorsement.

Seoul’s decision came after an inter-governmental team made an on-site inspection of the situation in the waters off the East African country last month. South Korea plans to send a 4,500-ton destroyer loaded with SM-2 Block IIIA missiles and other cutting-edge weaponry early next year, the official said.

It will be accompanied by the Navy’s special forces, called “UDT/SEAL,” in case of an emergency situation, along with a small group of logistical support staff.

The ship will join international efforts to prevent piracy, which is rampant in the waters off war-ravaged Somalia and the Gulf of Aden.

“The South Korean warship, if dispatched, will cooperate with the U.S. 5th Fleet in Oman and the French navy in Djibouti,” he said.

Ships operating in Somali waters often fall prey to pirates. More than 25 cases of ship kidnappings were reported there last year alone.

As recently as September, eight South Koreans were abducted after their freighter was seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The sailors were released unharmed after more than a month of captivity.

The U.N. Security Council approved a new resolution in October designed to step up the fight against piracy off Somalia.

It calls for all states to actively contribute to anti-piracy efforts in the Somali waters, including the dispatch of warships and warplanes in order stop pirates.

A South Korean tuna ship with 25 crew members was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2006. The vessel and its crew were released for a ransom after four months.

In 2007, two South Korean fishing vessels were seized by Somali pirates. The crew was released after six months in captivity.

The Foreign Ministry proposed the warship dispatch, while the Defense Ministry initially took a cautious stance, apparently doubtful of the effects a single ship could have.

The South Korean Navy has welcomed the plan.

Looks all the more like the ROK will be sending a KDX-II-class DD to Somali waters.  The devil is in the details, like logistics and intelligence support.  Also will be interesting how the ROK ships last in the warm waters…not quite the same as the East Sea in winter!

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