- Iran has accused South Korea of illegally seizing it assets.
- Iran is acting at a time when the Trump administration is descending from power.
- Iran has incarcerated the crew members of the seized South Korean vessel.
A South Korean diplomatic delegation has arrived in Iran to discuss the release of a tanker seized by Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf. According to the formal communique released by Iran, the vessel violated environmental pollution regulations. The crew has, however, denied the claim.
While underlining the main aspects of the negotiations, Iran has asked Seoul to release its frozen Iranian funds as part of the deal. It asserts that South Korea is refusing to remit the money simply due to lack of political will. This is as proclaimed by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araqchi.
The following is an excerpt from his statement related to this:
“For about two and a half years, South Korean banks have frozen Iran’s funds . . . it is not acceptable . . . In our view, this is more because of Seoul’s lack of political will [to resolve the issue] than the US sanctions.”
About $7 billion worth of Iranian assets is held by South Korean banks. The East Asian nation insists that repercussions arising from US sanctions are the main reason for the denial.
Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has echoed Mr. Araqchi’s sentiments and said that Korean Banks have lost their reputation due to the asset seizures.
“The illegal act of South Korean banks has significantly deteriorated Iranian people’s view of the country, and has done serious damage to its reputation,” he said.
The Tanker Incident
The South Korean tanker was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) at the Strait of Hormuz on January 4. Its capture has been linked to rising tensions between the two states due to the asset seizure.
It appears that Tehran is trying to use the vessel as leverage over Seoul in the negotiations. Iran has incarcerated the ship’s 20-member crew who are from Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea, and Myanmar. They are presently detained at the port city of Bandar Abbas.
A Clash of Two Adversaries
Iran has become more aggressive to the US and allied nations that support sanctions imposed on it in recent years. After US President Donald Trump walked out of the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018, Iran chose to foreshorten its commitments to the pact. The targeting of the South Korean ship is undoubtedly correlated to the US–Iran clash.
Tehran announced on Monday that it had begun the enrichment of 20 percent uranium at its Fordow nuclear facility.
According to some political analysts, Iran is most likely using this and the tanker seizure to set the tone for future negotiations when dealing with the US.
The antagonizing events notably come at a time when the Trump administration is on its way out and contending with a myriad of distracting political issues.
It is also a transitional period in which Tehran is keen to underline its stance on matters close to its agendas as the Joe Biden administration prepares to take over government.