SEOUL (AFP) — South Korea announced Monday it plans to send a warship to combat piracy in the lawless waters off Somalia, where five more Koreans were seized over the weekend.
The defence ministry will ask parliament to approve the deployment before its current session ends on December 8, said ministry spokesman Won Tae-Jae.
Once the mission is approved Seoul will send a 4,500-ton destroyer carrying missiles and other modern weaponry early next year, a senior official told Yonhap news agency last week.
The ship will join international efforts to combat piracy involving US and French warships, the official said.
Last week, the European Union launched an operation off the coast of Somalia to combat growing piracy and protect ships carrying aid deliveries. It is the EU's first-ever naval mission.
The foreign ministry said all the South Koreans aboard a hijacked Japanese cargo ship are safe. The 20,000-ton Chemstar Venus, with five South Koreans and 18 Filipino crewmen, was seized in the Gulf of Aden on Saturday.
"All our five crewmen... turned out to be safe," said foreign ministry spokesman Moon Tae-Young, confirming contact had been made with the kidnappers.
The spokesman refused to give other details such as whether a ransom had been demanded. The ministry says the Panamanian-registered ship is owned by a Japanese firm and its captain is Korean.
South Korean ships have frequently been targeted in the region.
Somali pirates seized a South Korean cargo ship and 22 sailors on September 10. The crew was released last month after the ship's owner paid a ransom.
Last year Somali pirates seized two South Korean vessels and 24 crew including four South Koreans.
The crew were released in November after six months in captivity. Local media reports said the pirates had demanded a ransom of five million dollars before reducing the sum to an undisclosed figure.
In April 2006 a South Korean tuna ship with 25 crew on board was hijacked. The ship and its crew were released after four months following the payment of a ransom.
The International Maritime Bureau reports at least 83 ships have been attacked off Somalia since January, of which 33 were hijacked. Of those, 12 vessels and more than 200 crew were still in the hands of pirates.
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