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S Korean Navy activates its first high-mobility combat unit

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SEOUL (YONHAP): The South Korean navy Monday activated its first high-mobility combat unit, designed to protect maritime transportation routes, maintain a defensive posture and support the country's overall foreign policy aims.

The combat unit, comprised of six destroyers, including South Korea's first Aegis combat destroyer Sejong the Great, has been designed to conduct missions also on the open seas and efficiently respond to threats from outside forces including North Korea, the navy said.

The activation of the unit comes just days after Pyongyang fired a barrage of live artillery shells for three consecutive days near its maritime border with the South, prompting the South Korean navy to fire warning shots and warn of counterattacks.

The 6,700 ton-Sejong warship, commissioned in 2008, led a South Korean military operation last year that detected and tracked a rocket fired by North Korea, which claimed to have put a satellite in orbit.

Aegis combat destroyers are capable of monitoring targets hundreds of kilometers away. Sejong the Great has radars capable of detecting objects about 1,000km away, and can shoot down targets within a radius of 150km, according to the navy.

"The establishment of the high-mobility unit means that our dream has come true," South Korean Navy Chief of Staff Jung Ok-keun was quoted as saying in a press release.

"We believe the unit can effectively protect sea lanes and counteract possible threats from North Korea."

The establishment of the mobile unit comes 65 years after the South Korean navy was officially formed in 1945.

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