South Korea is stepping up a diplomatic effort to free an oil tanker seized by Iran amid a dispute over frozen bank funds, the latest flare-up of tension between Tehran and an American ally.
A South Korean delegation arrived in Tehran on Thursday, three days after detaining 9,797 tonnes of oil tanker Hanuk Chemie and 20 of his crew members. According to the delegation’s South Korean Foreign Ministry, the country’s deputy foreign minister is expected to lay the foundation stone for a visit to Iran on Sunday.
The tanker seizure coincides with rising international tensions between Iran and the US, leading to possible links to the country’s commercial shipping disruptions, possible nuclear weapons and alleged cyber attacks.
Tehran said the ship flouted environmental regulations, but disputed the Seoul claim. The most recent inspection of the tanker during a 2019 port visit in China showed no environmental violations and just minor safety violations, according to EQUASSIS, an EU shipping database.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzade said talks are unlikely to begin before the South Korean deputy foreign minister arrives, and called the detention a technical issue “being processed within its professional and judicial framework . “