Iranian state media reported on Sunday that a South Korean envoy arrived in its country to discuss a ship seized by the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in the important Strait of Hormuz. This new development is the latest amid a rising financial dispute between the countries.
Iranian authorities claim the South Korean vessel was seized due to environmental pollution
The South Korean-flagged tanker seizure by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard appears to be a move by the state to increase its leverage over Seoul ahead of South Korea’s pre-scheduled regional trip.
Iranian officials have reportedly pressed South Korea to release up to $7 billion in assets tied up in the country’s banks due to American sanctions.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi stated that the vessel has been captured in the Persian Gulf and the Iranian territorial waters only because of “technical considerations and environmental pollution hazards.”
He also advises South Korea to avoid politicizing the seizure of an oil tanker and stay away from futile propaganda.
The ship’s crew members are reportedly unharmed
A South Korean diplomat based in Iran met one of the crew members, a South Korean, last week, according to South Korean Foreign Ministry Spokesman Choi Young-sam.
Choi Young-sam added that South Korea has requested that Iran provide evidence to back up its claim that the South Korean ship violated environmental protocols.
Meanwhile, the Iran deputy foreign minister said South Korean banks have illegally blocked Iran’s currency resources for nearly two years and a half citing a fear of the U.S. sanctions.
“This action (by South Korea), which was done only to surrender to ransom demand from the U.S., is not acceptable, and naturally the expansion of relations (between Tehran and Seoul) would be meaningful only when this problem is solved.”
President Donald Trump, who withdrew the U.S. from Tehran’s nuclear deal in 2018, reimposed sanctions that the agreement had suspended.