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South Korea Sends Forces To Strait Of Hormuz In Response To Detention Of Its Tanker By Iran

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South Korea Sends Forces To Strait Of Hormuz In Response To Detention Of Its Tanker By Iran

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On January 5th, South Korea said it had sent military forces to the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, after Iran seized one of its tankers.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said on January 4th that a South Korean chemical tanker had been seized by Iranian authorities in the waters off Oman, and demanded its immediate release.

South Korean forces stationed in the Strait of Hormuz have been dispatched to the area, the ministry said in a statement.

The Choi Young, a destroyer carrying members of the Cheonghae anti-piracy unit, arrived in the strategically important area, as officials in Seoul sought a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

Officials stressed there were no plans to conduct a military operation to free the crew of five South Koreans, 11 Myanmarese, two Indonesians and two Vietnamese, according to the Yonhap news agency.

“[The destroyer] is carrying out missions to ensure the safety of our nationals,” foreign ministry spokesperson Boo Seung-chan said.

South Korea is also sending a delegation to Iran to seek the release of a tanker seized in Gulf waters by Iranian forces.

“In the earliest possible time, a working-level delegation led by the regional director will be dispatched to Iran to try to resolve the issue on the ground through bilateral negotiations,” South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam said.

The South Korean foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, did not comment directly on rumors that Tehran had seized the vessel to pressure Seoul into releasing billions of dollars of Iranian assets frozen in South Korea as part of US sanctions.

Kang said her priority was to “verify the facts and ensure the safety of the crew members”.

She added:

“We have been trying to figure out what happened through the Iranian embassy in South Korea and the South Korean embassy in Iran and are continuing to make efforts to address the situation.”

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei rejected allegations that Iran’s seizure of the South Korean vessel amounted to hostage-taking. He said it was South Korea that was holding $7bn of Iran’s funds “hostage”.

“We’ve become used to such allegations … but if there is any hostage-taking, it is Korea’s government that is holding $7bn which belongs to us hostage on baseless grounds,” spokesman Ali Rabiei.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said that it had seized the ship, which has a gross tonnage of 9,797 tons, after receiving a request from the country’s Ports and Maritime Organization, which was acting on a warrant issued by the coastal Hormozgan province’s prosecutor’s office. Hormozgan is situated along the Strait of Hormuz.

 

The U.S. State Department, in a statement to South Korean news outlet Yonhap, has now also called for the immediate release of the Hankuk Chemi.

“The United States is tracking reports that the Iranian regime has detained a Republic of Korea-flagged tanker,” a State Department spokesperson said, using South Korea’s official name. “The regime continues to threaten navigational rights and freedoms in the Persian Gulf as part of a clear attempt to extort the international community into relieving the pressure of sanctions. We join the Republic of Korea’s call for Iran to immediately release the tanker.”

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) also said that it was monitoring the situation.

Currently, it is unclear how it will transpire, but tensions are at the boiling point with the US, Israel and now even South Korea joining in against Iran.

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