South Korea, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other partner countries will kick off a combined maritime security exercise in the southern port city of Busan this week, the Navy said Sunday.
The two-part exercise aimed at countering maritime crime, including illicit transactions of weapons and other banned items, will take place in Busan from Monday to Thursday and in Singapore from May 9-13.
The exercise involves 18 member countries of the maritime security expert working group of the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), a defense dialogue mechanism involving ASEAN and other countries, including the United States.
The Navy said 12 countries will send 16 warships and six aircraft for the exercise, while six other countries will send only military personnel.
For the first part of the exercise, South Korea's Navy will send the 4,400-ton destroyer Wang Geon, the 2,500-ton frigate Jeonbuk, 4,900-ton landing ship Cheonjabong, two UH-60 choppers and one Lynx helicopter. The Wang Geon will also join the second part of the drills.
The Korean Navy will lead the first part of the exercise, in which naval forces from Brunei, China, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States plan to practice rescuing ships hijacked by armed groups and conducting other maritime security operations.
Tokyo plans to skip the Korea portion of the exercise, apparently due to lingering tensions caused by a military spat with Seoul late last year. It will join part of the exercise in Singapore later.
In December, Japan claimed that a South Korean warship locked fire-control radar on its maritime patrol aircraft -- an allegation rejected by Seoul.
The Singaporean Navy is set to lead the second part, set to involve forces from Australia, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries conducting drills to stop and search ships suspected of carrying banned items.
From 2017-2020, South Korea and Singapore serve as the co-chairs of the maritime security expert working group of the ADMM-Plus.(Yonhap)