Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy on Monday seized a South Korean oil tanker vessel with the commercial name Hankuk Chemi in the Persian Gulf.
The Hankuk Chemi vessel was said to be carrying 7 200 tonnes of ethanol.
In a statement, the IRGC Navy said it seized the Hankuk Chemi Vessel due to repeated “violations of environmental laws.” Read the statement in part:
A South Korean oil tanker vessel with the commercial name Hankuk Chemi was stopped by the Guards’ Navy this morning due to violating environmental protocols.
Later on Monday, South Korea, a United States ally, 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, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said earlier that 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.
In December, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran said Tehran has $7bn locked away in South Korea, making it difficult for Iran 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.
Tensions between and the US have been rising lately, especially towards the first anniversary of the murder of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a US air raid last year.