S. Korean anti-piracy unit heads to Gulf of Aden

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Iranian guards patrolling around the impounded British-flagged tanker Stena Impero as it is anchored off the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. (AFP)
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The supertanker Grace 1 after being seized off the coast of Gibraltar. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2019

S. Korean anti-piracy unit heads to Gulf of Aden

  • The Trump administration is maintaining its push for allies to join the coalition to protect commercial shipping in the waterway, through which 20 percent of the global oil supply flows

SEOUL: A South Korean anti-piracy naval contingent has been dispatched to the Gulf of Aden on a rotational mission, following speculation that the 300-strong force could join a US-led coalition patrolling the Strait of Hormuz amid tensions with Iran.
A ceremony took place on Tuesday for the 30th rotation of the Cheonghae Unit at the port city of Busan.
The contingent on board the 4,400-ton destroyer Kang Gam Chan is scheduled to conduct operations to protect vessels off the Somali coast for six months from September.
“As of now, the Kang Gam Chan will sail to the Gulf of Aden to carry out its routine mission,” said Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo. “We’re reviewing various options of protecting our vessels.”
Capt. Lee Sang-keun, head of the 30th rotational batch, said: “We’re fully ready to conduct missions wherever our people need help.”
A senior officer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on condition of anonymity: “The unit is heading for the Gulf of Aden first, then it could be dispatched to the Strait of Hormuz at the order of command.”
But the officer said no formal decision has been made for the unit to join the US-led campaign.
According to officials in Seoul, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper raised the issue of South Korea potentially joining the campaign during a one-on-one meeting with his counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo on Aug. 9.
Jeong reportedly expressed support for the US-led initiative to safeguard freedom of navigation, while asking for Washington’s help to resolve a trade feud with Japan.
The Trump administration is maintaining its push for allies to join the coalition to protect commercial shipping in the waterway, through which 20 percent of the global oil supply flows. The route is vital for South Korea, as about 70 percent of oil imports come via the waterway.
Currently, only the UK and Israel have joined the campaign. Iran has warned that such an international naval presence in the Strait of Hormuz will increase the “risk of combustion” in the region.
A day after Esper visited Seoul, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Sayyed Abbas Moussawi urged South Korea to remain neutral, citing economic ties between the two nations. “(South) Korea’s possible joining of the coalition is not a good signal for us, and it will make things complicated,” Moussawi was quoted by the Yonhap news agency as saying.
Rep. Kim Jong-dae of the Justice Party expressed concern that Seoul’s possible partaking in the mission would compromise the country’s economic ties with one of the largest oil exporters.
“Iran is one of the largest trade partners with South Korea. Are you sending troops to the waters of Iran to protect shipping of oil from Iran? It’s absurd,” the lawmaker said in a news conference at the National Assembly on Wednesday.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Dispatch follows speculation that it could join US-led coalition patrolling Strait of Hormuz. • The Trump administration is maintaining its push for allies to join the coalition to protect commercial shipping in the waterway.

“Once sending forces to the region, we should bear the burden of economic damage. I don’t think we’re prepared for that risk now,” added Kim, a member of the National Assembly’s Defense Committee.
“I was told by a military source that the Kang Gam Chan was fitted with underwater search systems to detect torpedoes and mines ... The unit is also known to have recently been involved in training exercises to thwart drone attacks. These are clear steps to prepare for the Hormuz dispatch.”
As for whether the destroyer has been armed with new defense equipment, Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi said: “That is something that can be done depending on the needs at the site. There hasn’t been any big change (in weapons systems).”
Some civic groups said the dispatch of the Cheonghae Unit must be approved by Parliament. “The Cheonghae Unit has been sent to the Gulf of Aden for the sake of international peacekeeping, but the Strait of Hormuz is a spot where military tensions between the US and Iran are escalating,” said Park Jin-seok, a member of Lawyers for Democratic Society. “Sending troops to the volatile region is against the law.”


Police hunt killer of Omani student stabbed outside London's Harrods

Updated 25 min 23 sec ago

Police hunt killer of Omani student stabbed outside London's Harrods

  • Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Araimi attacked as he walked home
  • Pronounced dead outside the famous department store

LONDON: UK police are hunting for the killer of an Omani student who was stabbed to death outside Harrods department store on Friday in a suspected robbery.

Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Araimi, the youngest son of Omani property developer Sheikh Abdullah Al-Araimi, was attacked as he walked home from spending the evening with a friend, reportedly a Bahraini citizen.

It is believed Al-Araimi, 20, attempted to fight back when attacked before receiving a stab wound to the back and collapsing near an entrance to the department store, according to a report in the Evening Standard.

He was pronounced dead shortly after at the scene on Brompton Road.

The man he was with, also wounded in the incident, has since been released from hospital.

Al-Araimi was a student at King’s College and his relatives, said to be close to Oman’s royal family, were regular visitors to the UK capital.

Detectives investigating the murder said that the motive for the attack was likely robbery, and that Al-Araimi might have been targeted for his Rolex watch.

“Mohammed and his friend were returning home from a restaurant when they were approached and assaulted by two male suspects on Basil Street at the junction of Pavilion Road,” Detective Chief Inspector Andy Partridge said.

“The victim and his friend were entirely blameless, simply enjoying a meal out together. It does appear that the motive for this cowardly attack was robbery.

“Following the attack, the suspects fled on foot along Basil Street in the direction of Sloane Street.

“I would appeal to anyone who saw two males running along that route, or to drivers who were in Sloane Street around midnight and may have captured any part of this incident on dash-cam footage, to get in contact with my team immediately,” he added.

However, robbery as a motive was dismissed by Al-Araimi’s family in a short statement in which they said his murder being related to the theft of a watch was false.

“The police have confirmed that his possessions were not taken, and he was not wearing a watch at the time of this horrific attack,” the statement read.

The Omani Embassy released a statement, saying: “A regrettable stabbing attack took place, claiming the life of the Omani student, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Araimi. With great sadness and sorrow, the Embassy in London extends its condolences to the family of the deceased.”

The attack also prompted the UAE embassy to warn its citizens on Twitter against “wearing valuable items” given a recent spike in attacks on "citizens of Arab Gulf states.”

Attacks on Arab citizens have increased in London in the past five years, the most high-profile of which saw three Emirati women being bludgeoned to death in an attempted robbery in 2014 at the Cumberland Hotel.