Jan. 6 (UPI) -- South Korea's potential plan to deploy a guided missile destroyer warship to the Middle East is in the spotlight as tensions rise between the United States and Iran.
The 4,400-ton Wang Geon and the 31st batch of South Korea's anti-piracy Cheonghae Unit are at the center of attention in Seoul as the country grows increasingly concerned about securing petroleum supplies.
Sung Yun-mo, Seoul's minister of energy and trade, briefed the standing committee of President Moon Jae-in's national security council on the energy risks resulting from tensions in the Middle East, Seoul Pyongyang News reported Monday.
Joo Young-joon, deputy minister for energy and resources at the ministry of trade, industry and energy, said the threat to Korea's oil supply is "not yet" as high as it was in September, when drone attacks hit Saudi oil plants, JTBC reported.
On Monday, South Korea's main index KOSPI fell 1 percent and the Korean won depreciated against the U.S. dollar, as Brent crude topped $70 a barrel.
In December, South Korean press reports suggested various deployment plans were under way, but none have been finalized.
The United States has reportedly called on security partners, including South Korea, to step up joint defense of key oil-shipping routes, including the Strait of Hormuz.
The Cheonghae Unit is expected to leave for the Gulf of Aden near Somalia this month. Seoul does not need parliamentary consent to reassign the unit to Hormuz, if no additional forces or weapons join the troops, according to reports.
South Korea has deployed troops to the Middle East 13 times since the 1991 Gulf War, in coordination with the United States, South Korea's defense ministry said Monday, according to Yonhap.
Seoul has supported U.S. efforts in Afghanistan since 2011, including providing medical units. Korea has deployed units ranging from 450 to 1,300 troops per unit in Afghanistan.
South Korea also dispatched the Zaytun Division in Iraq from 2004 to 2008, ranging from 650 to 3,600 troops in rotation.