South Korea's Cabinet has approved a government plan to send a naval ship and forces to waters off Somalia to protect South Korean vessels from pirates operating off the coast of the East African nation, government officials said.
A weekly Cabinet meeting presided over by President Lee Myung-bak at the presidential office on Tuesday ratified the government plan to dispatch a Korean Navy destroyer and about 310 troops to the sea off the Gulf of Aden, said the officials.
The Ministry of Defense said later in the day it will present a motion to the parliament later this week to allow the naval operation to begin as early as next month.
"We will convoy South Korea-registered vessels, focusing on those less capable of self-defense," Jeon Jei-guk, who oversees defense policy at the ministry, said in a briefing.
If the motion is ratified by the National Assembly, the South Korean Navy will be involved in overseas operations for the first time in the nation's military history.
The US, a number of European nations, Russia, India and China have already sent naval ships to the Somali coast, seeking to strengthen international efforts to safeguard some of the world's most important shipping lanes.
Japan is also considering sending ships there. The South Korean destroyer and naval forces, if dispatched to Africa, could operate both independently and in conjunction with the international naval forces, said the officials.
Last month, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing international land operations against "audacious, armed pirates" sheltering in Somalia.