Ministry says no request yet from U.S. for military coalition to safeguard Gulf waters

SEOUL, South Korea's foreign ministry said Thursday that it has not received any request from the United States to join an initiative to form a military coalition to protect strategically vital waters off of Iran.

According to media reports, Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), said that Washington was talking to a number of countries with the "political will" to support the initiative to ensure freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.

The move comes amid heightened tensions with Iran following a set of attacks on oil tankers that Washington blamed on the Islamic republic.

"It appears that the U.S. JCS chairman has explained (to the media) that initiative," a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "But I understand that we have not received any request through diplomatic channels."

During a regular press briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul refused to give a direct answer on the matter.

"The government has concerns about the escalation of tensions in the Middle Eastern region," he said.

"Our position is that freedom of navigation and free commerce (in the region) should not be put into jeopardy," he added.

During a meeting with reporters on Tuesday, Dunford revealed the plan for the coalition.

"I think probably over the next couple of weeks we'll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we'll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that'll support that," Reuters quoted him as saying.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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