Iran Refuses to Negotiate on Seized Korean Oil Tanker

  • By Shon Jin-seok

    January 07, 2021 13:35

    Iran on Wednesday said it has no intention of holding talks with Korea over the release of a Korean oil tanker it seized on Monday.

    Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement that it has not reached an agreement on "any form of visit" by Korean officials and added for good measure, "There is no need for a diplomatic visit."

    Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps apparently seized the ship as a bargaining chip because it wants around US$7-8 billion in oil earnings released from a Korean bank, where it is frozen under U.S. sanctions.

    A photo of the Korean MT Hankuk Chemi being escorted by Iraninan Revolutionary Guard boats in the Persian Gulf on Monday on the front page of Iran's Tasnim news agency on Tuesday.

    Tehran urged the Korean government to deal with the issue "logically and responsibly" and added, "The [Korean] government's behavior in this regard is not understandable and is rejected."

    The bluster follows denials Tuesday that Tehran was taking the MT Hankuk Chemi and its 20-srtrong crew of Koreans, Indonesians, Myanmarese and Vietnamese hostage.

    The Foreign Ministry here claimed Tuesday that Seoul and Tehran had agreed to resolve the matter diplomatically.

    But Iran's Foreign Ministry only reiterated that the tanker violated environmental regulations as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz and insisted the issue is "completely technical."

    It claimed the ship's crew are being cared for.

    Iran's Tasnim news agency, which has strong links with the Revolutionary Guard, published a photo of the tanker being escorted by patrol ships on its front page. The sub-head did suggest that the ship's seizure could lead to the return of the money.

    The Korean government claims it has been negotiating with Tehran what to do with money, which has been frozen in a won-denominated account the Central Bank of Iran opened here. It also claimed to have been holding talks with the U.S., which imposed the fresh sanctions after unilaterally withdrawing from a denuclearization accord with Iran.

    The radical daily Esfashan-e Emrooz also published a photo of the Korean tanker on its front page with the headline, "Thief is Caught," suggesting the kerfuffle was largely staged for domestic consumption.

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