Dec. 18 (UPI) -- South Korea could send a guided missile destroyer warship to the Middle East as the United States calls on security partners to step up joint defense of a key oil-shipping route.
The 4,400-ton Wang Geon is scheduled to leave South Korea for a mission in the Gulf of Aden. Its role in defending the Strait of Hormuz cannot be ruled out, South Korean newspaper Seoul Shinmun reported Wednesday.
A Seoul government official told the paper discussions for "various deployment plans" are under way, and that no plans have been finalized.
The Gulf of Aden near Somalia is a four days' sail from the Strait of Hormuz, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
The 31st batch of South Korea's Cheonghae Unit, an anti-piracy mission, is scheduled to leave for Aden next month and start a six-month mission in February on the Wang Geon, according to Seoul's navy.
"As long as we do not add additional forces or weapons, expanding Cheonghae's role to the Strait of Hormuz would not require parliamentary consent, as law stipulates that the unit shall carry out missions in the Gulf of Aden and its surrounding regions," a Yonhap source said.
The unit's reassignment to Hormuz could take place as early as February, according to Seoul Shinmun.
Government officials in Seoul told the paper the operations are "not urgent," and that the decisions "are unrelated" to ongoing burden sharing negotiations with the United States.
Local paper Segye Ilbo reported Wednesday South Korea's presidential national security council held discussions on deployment in Hormuz last week.
The United States has called on greater protection around Hormuz following an attack of two oil tankers by "flying objects" in June.