The South Korean Defense Ministry has said that it will send its anti-piracy Cheonghae unit, normally based in the Gulf of Aden, along with helicopters to the Persian Gulf where a South Korean vessel was seized by Iran.

“The defence ministry immediately dispatched the Cheonghae unit to waters near the Strait of Hormuz shortly after receiving a report on the situation of Iran’s seizure of our commercial vessel,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday, cited by the AFP.  

According to South Korea’s 2018 defense white paper, the 302-strong Cheonghae unit operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three speed boats.

The Cheonghae unit has been stationed in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, but in 2019 and 2020 conducted operations in the Strait of Hormuz following attacks on oil tankers off the coast of Iran. 

A South Korean-flagged tanker, the Hankuk Chemi, was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Gulf waters earlier on Monday, “due to a series violations of maritime environmental laws.”

Photos released by Iranian media appear to show the vessel being escorted into Iranian waters by three speedboats and a patrol boat, while the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it had brought the vessel to an Iranian port.

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy has seized a South Korean-flagged ship in #PersianGulf over environmental hazards, sources said

The vessel is reportedly carrying 7,200 tons of oil chemical products. 

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