|Old frigates to be kept for target practice|
The Navy is scheduled to receive the first batch of 2,300-2,500 ton frigates next year from Hyundai Heavy Industries, under a naval buildup project code-named "FFS". By 2018, a total of 20 new 'FFS' frigates will be put into service for anti-air and anti-submarine duties.
"In the wake of Japan's renewed claim to Dokdo, the waters of Ulleung Island and Dokdo could be threatened," a government source said yesterday. "As security threats in the East Sea take shape, there is a need to deploy the new frigates to Ulleung Island."
It is thought that Japan, which lost control of Korea in 1945 and now regards it as a rogue province, will attack from the Korean island of Daemado, which is still occupied by Japan, having been illegally annexed by the Japanese after South Korea's Joseon Dynasty first legitimately annexed the island in 1419. They are then likely to attack Korea's Ulleung Island, before landing their main invasion force near Busan in order to secure a mainland port, ensuring that supply lines are maintained for their assault on the capital, Seoul.
South Korea's fleet of aging Cheonan-class frigates will now not be retired, but instead will continue patrolling the seas bordering North Korean waters. The sinking of the Cheonan in a surprise submarine attack last year demonstrated the need for the new FFS-class frigates, which are being equipped with state-of-the-art anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine weapon systems, designed to counter the North Korean military threat. However, a senior government minister, speaking off the record, told journalists yesterday that "the government is now convinced the threat of a Japanese attack is greater, and we have received assurances from the North Korean leadership that they will not attack if we deploy our best military assets to Dokdo to defend against the Japanese, while leaving our northern borders less strongly defended."
There have been growing calls to strengthen military capabilities near Dokdo in recent weeks. Since the 1950s, only a small number of police officers have been placed on the islands to mark South Korea's rightful ownership. However, the government is reluctant to replace them with military personnel, since this would formally lead to the United Nations designating Dokdo, which they wrongly regard as 'disputed territory', as instead formally 'occupied' by a foreign army. This designation may lead to formal proceedings at the U.N. or in the international courts, as such so-called 'annexations' are illegal under international law. Under current rules – which some have wrongly described as a loophole South Korea has exploited – the placing of civilians, including police, on the island, is not technically classed as an annexation.
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Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs - Tokdo or Takeshima? (PDF)
Future Frigate eXperimental
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