x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

South Korean anti-piracy experts to train UAE

South Korean naval forces will provide counter-piracy training in the UAE, where the shipping industry faces increasing pressure from Somali pirates.

DUBAI // The UAE has invited specialist naval forces from South Korea to provide counter-piracy training as part of efforts to boost its defences against the growing high-seas threat.

About 10 underwater demolition troops will arrive in mid-July, supplementing 130 Korean "Ahk" special forces already stationed in Al Ain to provide antiterrorism training, said Col Romano Lee, the defence attache at the South Korean embassy in Abu Dhabi.

South Korea successfully freed a ship from Somali pirates in January - an event that left an impression on the UAE, a South Korean defence official told the South Korean Yonhap news agency.

In January, its navy commandos rescued the South Korean cargo ship Samho Jewellery, which had been hijacked in the Arabian Sea en route from the UAE to Sri Lanka.

All 21 Samho Jewellery crew members survived, including the captain, though he suffered a serious gunshot wound. Eight pirates were killed, while five were captured and now face trial in South Korea.

The announcement of the arrival of the 10 Korean troops' arrival comes just days after Abu Dhabi received a Turkish naval delegation to do exercises related to counter-piracy.

South Korea and Turkey participate in a multinational counter-piracy group called the Combined Task Force 151, which patrols the Gulf of Aden.

The UAE and South Korea have deepened their bilateral relations in recent years. In 2009 the UAE signed a landmark deal with a South Korean-led group to build four nuclear reactors. In March, the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited to sign a memorandum of understanding to allow his country to develop oilfields.

The UAE has been the target of several attacks by Somali pirates, who in the past year have spread their reach from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. Pirates hold four ships that are either owned by Emirati firms or were travelling to or from the UAE, including the MV Iceberg I, which has been held for 15 months.

The UAE faced its own pirate rescue incident in April, when a bulk carrier owned by the UAE-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company was seized by pirates in the Arabian Sea while returning from Australia.

Within 24 hours, Emirati special forces with US support had boarded the ship and reclaimed the vessel with no casualties.

chuang@thenational.ae