New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) South Korea will soon become the fourth nation to join an India-China-Japan effort at coordinated anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia, in a bid to effectively utilise their warships to escort cargo vessels in the brigand-affected waters.
'South Korea has indicated its interest in join the tri-nation effort that was launched in February this year,' a senior Indian Navy officer said here Tuesday.
'The proposal from Seoul is likely to be approved by the three nations and the Korean warships may join the coordinated patrol from July,' he said.
India, Japan and China agreed on the mechanism for optimum utilisation of their warships' patrolling of the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) so that the movement of cargo vessels in convoys could be coordinated to ward off pirate attacks.
Till February, the three nations were operating independently in Gulf of Aden to provide safe passage to merchant ships. The trilateral agreement was arrived at after a meeting of the Shared Awareness and De-confliction (SHADE) initiative held earlier this year.
South Korea too was operating independently in the pirate-infested waters.
While China has two warships and a fleet tanker in the Gulf of Aden, Japan has two warships and a maritime patrol plane operating off Djibouti close to Somalia. India has one of its warships patrolling the waters off Somalia continuously since October 2008.
The coming together of the Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean warships in the anti-patrol effort will be the first such military joint effort by these nations.
Incidentally, India, Japan and South Korea have viewed China's military plans with suspicion for long.
The 890-km-long and 92-km-wide IRTC extends eastwards from the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea.
All other navies operating in the Gulf of Aden are under either of the two international task forces - CTF-151 and Eunavfor -- sponsored by the NATO or the European Union.