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Seoul pulls out navy destroyer monitoring hijacked ship near Somalia

All Headlines 18:00 April 10, 2010

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea ordered a navy destroyer to pull out of Somalia's coastal waters after the owner of a hijacked supertanker began negotiations with pirates, an informed source here said Saturday.

The destroyer went to the area while chasing the seized ship to make an effort to block it from entering Somali waters, where the pirates are based, but the risk of endangering the ship's crew prevented any military maneuvers.

Now that negotiations with the pirates have begun, the destroyer Chungmugong Yisunshin was ordered to return to its usual area of operation in the Gulf of Aden, the source said.

The Samho Dream, a 300,000-ton tanker, was seized in the Indian Ocean on Sunday while on its way to the United States from Iraq. It was carrying 24 crew members -- five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos.

The pirates earlier demanded the withdrawal of the destroyer from near Somali waters, but the source said the decision to pull out the destroyer had nothing to do with the pirates' demands.

"The government decided the Chungmugong Yisunshin's tasks have been completed, and therefore the destroyer will return to its area of operation," the source said, asking not to be identified.

The destroyer escorts South Korean-flagged ships through the pirate-ridden Gulf of Aden and is scheduled to escort six commercial vessels next week.

In addition, the navy ship is scheduled to be replaced later this month by another destroyer currently on its way to the Gulf of Aden, according to the defense ministry.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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