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Owner of hijacked S. Korean tanker begins talks with Somali pirates

All Headlines 17:31 April 09, 2010

By Byun Duk-kun

SEOUL, April 9 (Yonhap) -- The owner of a South Korean supertanker seized by Somali pirates has begun negotiations with the captors for the release of the ship and its 24 crew members, including five South Koreans, an informed source said Friday.

"The pirates have not yet made any clear demands, but the ship's owner and the pirates have begun to talk to each other," the source said.

The 300,000-ton ship, the Samho Dream, was seized in the Indian Ocean on Sunday while en route to the United States from Iraq.

Seoul earlier tried to stop the pirates before the ship reached the pirates' base by dispatching its navy destroyer, the Chungmugong Yisunshin, to the area, but the risk of endangering the ship's crew, which also includes 19 Filipinos, prevented any military maneuvers. The hijacked tanker arrived in Somali waters Wednesday.

The South Korean navy, based in the Gulf of Aden as part of an international contingent to fight piracy there, has confirmed the safety of the ship's crew through radio communication. Officials said the destroyer may soon pull out and return to its area of operation.

Officials at Seoul's foreign ministry earlier said the government's role will be limited in efforts to win the safe release of the ship and its crew, as such negotiations often involve ransoms.

"The negotiations will likely involve ransoms, so there is not much the government can say on the issue," an official said on condition of anonymity.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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