Two South Korean destroyers and hundreds of troops will depart for Hawaii this week to participate in a US-led multinational maritime exercise slated to kick off next month, the Navy said Friday.
The 7,600-ton Aegis destroyer Seoae Ryu Sung-ryong and the 4,400-ton Chungmugong Yi Sun-shin will leave a port in the southern island of Jeju on Saturday to take part in the biannual Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC) scheduled for Aug. 17-31.
Along with the two destroyers, South Korea is sending two Lynx naval choppers and 570 service members for the exercise where Col. Kim Sung-hwan will serve as the Combined Task Force (CTF) commander.
In 2018, South Korea sent a submarine, a patrol plane and some 700 troops along with destroyers, but it is sending smaller forces this year as the upcoming exercise has been scaled down due to coronavirus concerns.
This year, land and shore-based training and social events on shore will not take place.
The Navy said all of its troops taking part in the exercise have been staying inside the vessels for the past two weeks, and have tested negative for the virus on Saturday.
"The exercise is expected to boost the operational capability of combined forces and the ability to carry out combined operations to improve joint response to various maritime security situations," the colonel said.