South Korea has plans to send a naval unit to the Middle East in order to bolster the U.S.-led efforts to guard oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz” in response to recent attacks on oil tankers that have soured the relationship between Iran and the U.S.

Last year President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal signed by the Obama administration in 2015. The agreement between Iran and the U.S. along with Russia, China and European powers was to restrict Tehran’s nuclear program as an exchange for the relief of sanctions against the Mideast country.

Critics of the 2015 deal complained that it ignored Iran’s support of terrorism and a growing missile program aimed at U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East. Trump was a bit terser, calling the agreement “ridiculous and insane." 

The matter of South Korean assistance was discussed in Seoul last week between U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, the South Korean defense minister and other senior officials but the official request did not come until later when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington had asked South Korea, Japan, France, Germany, Australia and others to take part.

Korean spokesperson Ro Jae-cheon told a regular news briefing Monday that "It is obvious that we have to protect our ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz, isn't it? So, we're considering various possibilities.” Those “various possibilities” include helicopters along with an anti-piracy vessel operating near the coast of Somalia where piracy is known to occur.  

Strait of Hormuz Oil and gas prices continue to rise on the fear factor. If the Strait of Hormuz, a vital passage, was closed, oil and gas prices would likely soar to all-time highs. Photo: REUTERS

The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow strategic waterway off the coast of Iran that divides the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf. It is the worlds most important oil passageway and has been called a “chokepoint” between the two Gulfs.

Recent newsworthy events in the area include the attempt by three Iranian boats attempting to thwart a British commercial vessel transiting through the strait and some explosions that damaged two oil tankers. In May, two Saudi Arabian and one Norwegian oil tankers plus an Emirati registered bunkering (fuel supplying vessel) were damaged under suspicious circumstances