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Naval Forces of Kazakhstan and Korea to Cooperate

Astana, Seoul discuss possible secondment of Kazakh officer observers to South Korea naval ships

Monday 9 November 2015, by Nazar TAMASHEVSKA

ASTANA (Interfax-Kazakhstan) — The Commander-in-Chief of South Korea’s Naval Forces discussed prospects of cooperation of naval forces of the two countries with representatives of Kazakhstan’s Armed Forces on Monday in Astana, the press office of the Kazakh Defence Ministry reported.

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The Kazakh Navy’s Kazakhstan-class patrol vessel Oral
A fourth-in-class is now reported to be in build.
(Source: Kazakhstan Ministry of Defence)

The main issues the sides discussed were ongoing training of the Kazakh Navy personnel in South Korea’s educational establishments, training of Kazakh special purpose units at South Korea’s naval training centres, Rear Admiral Zhandarbek Zhanzakov, commander-in-chief of the Kazakh Navy was quoted by the press office as saying following the meeting.

“We also discussed the participation of observer officers of the Kazakh Navy on South Korea’s ships. The next step, I think, will be the implementation of these issues in a practical way”, he said.

For his part, the Commander-in-Chief of South Korea’s Naval Forces confirmed that a “number of important issues on the development of Kazakhstan’s Naval Forces, training of cadets in military schools in South Korea, as well as getting the opportunity to gain practical experience on the South Korea’s naval ships” were discussed.

Though landlocked, Kazakhstan nonetheless has serious maritime concerns stemming from the Caspian Sea. By area, the Caspian Sea is the world’s largest inland body of water — essentially the world’s biggest lake. The Caspian Sea’s 143,200 sq miles are bordered by five states — Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, and Iran. In and around the Caspian basin sits an estimated 48 bln barrels of oil and 8 tln m³ of natural gas.

Tehran has not been afraid to use its navy in an attempt to defend its interests and intimidate its neighbours. In 2001, for example, an Iranian naval ship notoriously confronted a BP Amoco oil research vessel that Iran claimed had strayed out of Azerbaijan’s territorial waters. And recently, Iran increased its naval firepower in the Caspian by introducing the largest ship it maintains in the sea, a Jamaran-class destroyer.

The Kazakhstan Navy has between 13 and 15 vessels, mostly inshore patrol craft. Notably, in 2012 Kazakhstan launched its first domestically produced ship, a missile boat designated Kazakhstan, which Eurasianet categorized as the country’s first real naval ship. In February 2015, IHS Janes reported that the country’s Zenit Uralsk Shipyard is “planning to launch a fifth Project 0300 Bars-class patrol vessel for the Kazakh coastguard service in April 2016.”

Based on the Russian Project 22180 fast supply vessel design, the Project 0300 ships in service with Kazakhstan’s coastguard — known formally as the Maritime Border Guard Service of the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan — are 41.75 m long, 7.8 m in beam, and have a draft of 2.5 m. They displace around 218 tonnes. Two MTU 16V4000 M71 series engines driving through ZF 7550A gearboxes provide a top speed of around 30 kt. Range is 1,200 n miles and endurance is 10 days. The ships’ complement is 23. Armament typically comprises a 2M-3M gun mount with twin 14.5 mm machine guns, as well as 12.7 mm heavy machine guns.

Kazakhstan, with massive oil fields in the north Caspian, and no other way to the ocean except via Russia’s canals, has invested in building its naval capabilities over the past few years. What some have called an arms race is underway in the Caspian, with most focusing on the Iran-Russia dynamic. Joshua Kucera noted in an article for Foreign Policy in 2012 that:

The biggest reason for this build-up may be mistrust of Iran, but it’s not the only one. The smaller countries also worry about how Russia’s naval dominance allows Moscow to call the shots on their energy policies. Iran and Russia, meanwhile, fear U.S. and European involvement in the Caspian. All of this, among countries that don’t trust each other and act with little transparency, is setting the stage for a potential conflict.

Russia, however, remains the naval powerhouse in the Caspian. The Russian navy is planning at least two joint naval training drills with neighbouring ex-Soviet states. The drills will be conducted to eliminate any “security threats” in the Caspian, Adm. Viktor Chirkov said. The first drill will involve Russia as well as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, while the second will include Azerbaijan, the Russian navy and Russia’s Caspian Flotilla, a collection of ships that ensures trade safety, protects oil fields and does anti-terrorist work in the inland sea.

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