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S. Korea's options on Hormuz strait appear shortlisted

The South Korean government has yet to complete a review of options on how to contribute to security in the Strait of Hormuz, a Cheong Wa Dae official said Saturday amid reports that a final decision on whether to send troops there may be imminent.

(Cheong Wa Dae)
(Cheong Wa Dae)

"As you know, we will have to make a decision in consideration of the people's life and security as well as oil supply," the official said, adding relevant options are "still being reviewed."

Consultations with Iran are under way as well, he added.

Cheong Wa Dae's latest statement on the matter offered some clues. It said members of the National Security Council (NSC) discussed ways Thursday to protect South Korean people, companies and assets there and secure freedom of navigation for South Korean ships in the Middle East.

In a brief summary for media on the outcome of the weekly NSC standing committee meeting, it repeatedly used the word "our," which means South Korean, apparently emphasizing the rationale for South Korea to play a particular role in the region in consideration of its own interests.

On the results of the previous NSC session a week earlier, Cheong Wa Dae said top security officials "reviewed ways" to cooperate closely with the international community so that tensions in the Middle East can be eased and security conditions can be stabilized at an early date.

Speaking shortly after the NSC meeting held Thursday, Presidential Chief of Staff Noh Young-min told a local radio talk show, "There has been considerable progress, internally," in discussions on the sensitive issue of possible troop dispatch.

Earlier in the week, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in California.

Among options considered, reportedly, are dispatching a military officer to the US-led coalition, the International Maritime Security Conduct, and then expand the operational area of the its anti-piracy Cheonghae unit operating off the Somali coast to the strait. The unit has around 300 troops and a 4,400-ton destroyer.

Some observers raise the likelihood that Seoul will make public its decision after concluding thorny talks with Washington on splitting the cost for American troops stationed on its soil. (Yonhap)