UK Navy chief warns Houthi sea mines a danger to maritime trade

Admiral Sir Phillip Jones said Houthi rebels were using unconventional warfare

FILE - In this June 19, 2018 file photo, a boat that officials described as being a "drone boat" once loaded with explosives by Shiite rebels in Yemen, is on display at a military installation in the United Arab Emirates. Iran-backed Houthi rebels increasingly deploy drones in Yemen’s brutal civil war. Neighboring Saudi Arabia, which has been battling the rebels since 2015, said drones attacked an oil pipeline, targeting two pumping stations west of its capital, Riyadh, on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)
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The decision by Houthi rebels to deploy mines and improvised weaponry in the Red Sea area risks severely damaging the global maritime trade, the UK’s Navy chief has warned.

Admiral Sir Phillip Jones said the Houthi’s “complex” and sometimes unconventional tactics would only exacerbate tensions and hinder chances of peace in Yemen.

“The use of sea mines and other potentially lethal weapons adjacent to such a pivotal maritime choke point adds further tension that could only destabilise what is already a long-running and damaging four-year conflict,” he told an audience at London’s Royal United Services Institute.

Such strategy could have “very significant repercussions for global maritime trade,” Admiral Jones added.

He was laying out the evolving threats and changes faced in naval warfare and used the Yemen conflict as an example. Speaking generally beforehand, Admiral Jones said the "rules" that governed the international system and kept it away from conflict were being eroded.

“In the southern Red Sea we are now seeing increasingly complex physical and manifestations of maritime power by the Houthi rebels in the way they target Saudi-led coalition forces at sea," said the Admiral.

“Their increased use of practical but unconventional technology such as remote controlled and autonomous surface craft is a particular concern to global mariners,” he added.

Houthi control of a large chunk of Yemen’s Red Sea coastline has led to fears the region is littered with unexploded ordinance. While they have withdrawn from the city of Hodeidah, the Houthis on Tuesday claimed a drone-attack on Saudi Arabian oil installations.