SEOUL --- South Korea's Navy said Friday that it will push to create a task fleet capable of broader-range operations beyond its shores, in another show of its desire to build blue-water capabilities.
During a parliamentary audit at the Gyeryongdae military headquarters, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, it also said that it would pursue the creation of an aviation command in line with its pursuit of expanded maritime operations.
The Navy envisions a task fleet consisting of three task squadrons that carry high-tech assets, such as its Aegis-equipped destroyers. It hopes to establish the fleet by the mid-2020s.
The task fleet will be part of a "second operational command" that the Navy seeks to create to handle potential and non-military threats. The Navy also plans to reorganize its Busan-headquartered fleet command into a "first operational command" tasked with countering North Korean threats, officials said.
"The task fleet will contribute to securing maritime traffic routes and ensuring the free maritime operations and safety of our citizens through the expansion of our operational areas into far seas," the Navy said.
"The envisioned aviation command that will run maritime patrol aircraft and choppers will ensure the completeness of various maritime aviation operations," it added.
The Navy started to use the blue-water slogan in the mid-1990s in a show of its desire to expand the scope of its operations beyond the peninsula to protect sea lines of communication and maritime peace in the region and beyond.
But with Pyongyang's repeated attacks, such as its sinking of the corvette Cheonan in March 2010, the Navy was forced to look inward for some time to avoid criticism that it was neglecting its coastal defense against the North.
However, ongoing efforts for inter-Korean rapprochement and potential maritime threats from surrounding powers, such as China and Japan, have highlighted the need for the Navy to refocus on its blue-water capabilities.