The Seoul government is considering deploying a 2,300-ton frigate ― currently being built ― to Ulleung Island in apparent efforts to bolster its capabilities to defend the easternmost islets of Dokdo, news reports said Tuesday.
“After the construction to expand the port on Ulleung Island is completed, (the government) is considering deploying the frigate,” said an anonymous government source cited in the reports.
“As waters near Ulleung Island and Dokdo Islets can be threatened at any time, the need for the deployment of a frigate whose homeport is in the Ulleung Island (about 87 kilometers west from Dokdo) is great.”
However, Navy officials denied the reports, saying that no details regarding the deployment of new frigates have been worked out yet.
Such reports came as public calls have been mounting for the government to draw up effective measures to protect Dokdo Islets as Japan has been persistently making sovereignty claims over them.
Under the Frigate Experimental program aimed at replacing aging frigates and corvettes with more advanced warships, the Navy is scheduled to receive 20 2,300-ton or 2,500-ton frigates by 2018. The first new frigate ― now being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries ― is set to be delivered in 2012.
The new frigates are to be equipped with anti-ship guided missiles, antisubmarine weapons and other state-of-the-art weapons systems.
“When the plan to build the frigates was established, the plan included using the frigates to patrol the areas in the East Sea including Dokdo Islets and prepare for possible unexpected situations in the waters off the islets,” the source said.
“While conducting primary missions in the fleets in the East, West and South Seas, the new frigates will also carry out multiple missions including escorting corvettes and other mobile fleets operating near Dokdo, if need be.”
The government plans to complete the port expansion work on Ulleung Island by 2017 so that the port can accommodate a 5,000-ton class warship, according to sources. It also plans to expand ports on Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong Islands to dock large-scale vessels.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com