Tehran, Iran – Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy seized a South Korean vessel for “environmental pollution” in the Persian Gulf.
The vessel, which was led to Bandar Abbas after being seized, was said to be carrying 7,200 tonnes of ethanol, according to the IRGC Navy.
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“The South Korean oil tanker vessel with the commercial name Hankuk Chemi was stopped by the Guards’ Navy this morning due to violating environmental protocols,” the IRGC Navy said in a statement on Monday, adding that the tanker started its journey to South Korea from Al Jubail port in Saudi Arabia.
The statement added that the action was carried out by the order of a provincial judge.
Later on Monday, South Korea’s foreign ministry demanded the vessel’s immediate release, adding in a statement that its forces stationed in the Strait of Hormuz were dispatched to the area.
Meanwhile, the spokesman of the Iranian foreign ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said earlier a high-level official from the South Korean foreign ministry will travel to Tehran later this week to discuss Seoul’s prolonged freezing of billions of dollars of Iranian money due to United States sanctions.
“We hope this trip would be an end to the slowness of this process,” Khatibzadeh said on Monday.
In December, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran said Tehran has $7bn locked away in South Korea.
“They will not allow us to transfer the money or pay interest on it but, instead, charge us for keeping it,” Hemmati said.
Iran has for months been trying to use the money to buy COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, a global vaccine effort operating under the World Health Organization.
The US imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran after President Donald Trump, in May 2018, unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.