On 18th October 2021, EU Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta flagship, frigate ESPS Victoria, the Republic of Korea’s destroyer Chungmugong Yi Sun-Sin and the Maritime Security Centre of Oman conducted their first joint naval exercise in the International Recommended Transit Corridor of the Gulf of Aden in the framework of the Joint Sea exercise ‘Mare Liberum’. The Korean frigate is part of the Combined Task Force 151 – the Combined Maritime Forces’ counter-piracy mission in Bahrain.
Based on the scenario of a counter-piracy operation, the joint naval exercise included boarding a vessel with helicopter-borne special operations forces, live heavy machine gun fire, a search and rescue operation, and complex tactical evolutions at sea. These exercises provide the warships a valuable opportunity to test their communication and coordination linkages, and strengthen the mutual understanding of the ships’ capabilities, practices, and procedures.
The newly adopted EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific calls for more joint activities with Indo-Pacific partners to promote maritime security in the region. It also encourages greater participation of Indo-Pacific partners in CSDP missions and operations. The Republic of Korea welcomes the EU’s stronger engagement in the Indo-Pacific. In addition, the EU intends to strengthen its partnership with the Gulf countries.
In December 2016, the Republic of Korea concluded a Framework Participation Agreement with the EU for participation in EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, such as EU Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta. Since then, there have been a number of successful meetings and exercises between EU NAVFOR and Korean warships in the Gulf of Aden over the past few years and has not only provided ships, but also personnel to the Operation. A Korean staff officer is currently serving in the EU NAVFOR Forces Headquarters on board ESPS Victoria. The EU and the Republic of Korea are committed to pursuing their close partnership in the area of security and defence.
Operation ATALANTA is an active instrument in EU’s naval diplomacy following a comprehensive approach to crisis management, effective operational capacity, as well as the technical resources it can offer and strongly emphasising on maritime multilateralism, interstate and inter-agency cooperation, as well as the EU’s willingness.