Pirate talks begin, Navy ship returns to its port

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Pirate talks begin, Navy ship returns to its port

The Korean naval destroyer that has continued to keep short distance from a Korean supertanker hijacked by Somali pirates pulled out of the coast of Somalia on Saturday afternoon, Korean time, according to Foreign Ministry here yesterday.

The withdrawal of the destroyer Yi Sun-sin, named after Admiral Yi Sun-sin of the Joseon Dynasty, came after Samho Shipping Company, the Busan-based operator of the seized 300,000-ton ship Samho Dream, begun negotiations with the pirates for the release of the ship and its crew, the ministry said.

No progress in the negotiation has been reported as of yesterday evening. In the past, it took as short as 37 days and as long as 173 days for a ransom negotiation to rescue abducted crew of a Korean commercial ship from pirates in the region.

The tanker, which was carrying $160 million of crude oil from Iraq to Louisiana in the United States, was hijacked around 4:10 p.m. on April 4, Korean time, in the Indian Ocean.

Its 24-person crew is made up of five Koreans and 19 Filipinos.

The names of the abducted Korean crew members have not been disclosed due to “concerns for their safety.”

According to the ministry, the destroyer reached waters near the tanker around 1:20 a.m. on April 6, Korean time.

The hijacking took place about 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) southeast of the Gulf of Aden, where the Korean Navy is currently operating an anti-piracy unit called Cheonghae. The Yi Sun-sin is part of that unit.

By Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]
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