South Korea and Japan joined Spain in an anti-piracy drill off the coast of Somalia amid ongoing tensions over history and trade.
Seoul’s military said Tuesday the exercises, Operation Atalanta, were led by the European Union Naval Force Somalia and took place last week, Yonhap reported.
“Upon the European Union entity’s request, we’ve often participated in the drill. It aims to hone anti-piracy skills and boost cooperation among different militaries,” an official with Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, according to the report.
The drill was also described as regular or recurring and has been held since 2008.
Seoul and Tokyo have traded barbs over issues ranging from Japanese trade restrictions on the export of key chemicals to compensation for Korean forced laborers during World War II. Neither issue has been resolved since 2019.
Last week Seoul deployed the Cheonghae Unit to take part in the EU-led drills. The Cheonghae had left for waters near the Middle East in January. The unit, which includes 300 troops, has been assigned to the Strait of Hormuz in addition to the Gulf of Aden.
The decision to dispatch the Cheonghae to the Strait of Hormuz came after the United States reportedly called on security allies, including Seoul, to enhance joint defense of key oil shipping routes. South Korea agreed to the deployment in January.
Seoul has sent troops to the Middle East 13 times since the 1991 Gulf War in coordination with Washington.
Seoul has supported U.S. efforts in Afghanistan since 2011, including providing medical units. South Korea’s units have ranged from 450 to 1,300 troops in Afghanistan.
South Korea also dispatched the Zaytun Division in Iraq from 2004 to 2008, ranging from 650 to 3,600 troops in rotation.