This photo made available by Iran’s Tasnim News agency shows Revolutionary Guard Corps jet boats approaching the South Korea-flagged oil tanker, MT Hankuk Chemi, in the Persian Gulf on Jan. 4, 2021. (Photo: Tasnim News agency-Yonhap News)
South Korea is dispatching a team of officials to Iran to negotiate the release of a Korean oil tanker that was seized in the Persian Gulf.
According to the foreign ministry in Seoul, Middle Eastern affairs Director-General Koh Kyung-sok will lead the group and depart as soon as possible.
Rosyn Park reports.
Koh met with Iran's top envoy to Seoul today to lodge a protest over the seizure of the tanker, MT Hankuk Chemi, by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The IRCG said it detained the vessel on Monday for allegedly polluting waters in the Persian Gulf.
But that reasoning is at odds with the general view that Tehran is really trying to increase its leverage over Seoul ahead of negotiations over billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen in South Korean banks due to a U.S. pressure campaign targeting Iran.
The Korean operator of the tanker has denied the pollution claim, and said the vessel was stormed by troops and forced to change course as it was in international waters traveling from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates.
Koh expressed regrets over the incident during his meeting with Iranian Ambassador Saeed Badamchi Shabestari, who assured the crew members of the MT Hankuk Chemi remain safe.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said all efforts were being made for their swift release.
First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun will also head to Iran on Sunday to aid in the talks.
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