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Breaking News : Iran Denies Using Seized South Korean Ship As Hostages

US State Department joined South Korea in calling for the tanker’s immediate release, accusing Iran of threatening “navigational rights and freedoms” in the Persian Gulf

Iran denied that it was using a South Korean ship and its 20 crew members as hostages after it was seized for violating environmental protocols.

Iran denied that it was using a South Korean ship and its 20 crew members as hostages after it was seized for violating environmental protocols and polluting the area. According to the South Korean company which owns the ship, it was carrying 7,200 tons of chemicals, mostly methanol. Also, the company denies that it was polluting the waters. 

Iran seizes South Korean vessel

This development comes as Iran is seeking to increase its leverage over Seoul after the negotiations of about $7 billion amid a US pressure campaign targeting Iran. According to the reports by AP, an Iranian government spokesman, Ali Rabiei said, “If anybody is to be called a hostage-taker, it is the South Korean government that has taken our more than $7 billion hostage under a futile pretext”. Tanker Hankuk Chemi was travelling from Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. It was then when the Iranian forces reached the location and forced to board the ship. 

South Korea’s presidential office said that it views the current incident “very gravely”. They said, “The US State Department joined South Korea in calling for the tanker’s immediate release, accusing Iran of threatening “navigational rights and freedoms” in the Persian Gulf in order to “extort the international community into relieving the pressure of sanctions”. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said that it plans to send officials to Iran to talk about the early release of the ship. The ministry said that it was sending its anti-piracy unit to near the Strait of Hormuz with about 300 troops. 

(In this photo released Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, a South Korean-flagged tanker is escorted by Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats on the Persian Gulf. Iranian state television acknowledged that Tehran seized the oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The report on Monday alleged the MT Hankuk Chemi had been stopped by Iranian authorities over alleged “oil pollution” in the Persian Gulf and the strait. Image Credits: AP)

The company which owns the vessel has been unable to connect with the captain since the seizure. As per the reports by AP, the US Navy’s Mideast routinely patrols the area along with an American-led coalition, which monitors the  Strait of Hormuz. Also, a European-led effort also operates in the same area.

The decision has caused a stir among other signatories

The vessel seizure comes after an announcement by Iran that it would start enriching uranium to 20%, which is in violation of the nuclear deal. The move, which Iran had notified the UN nuclear watchdog about last week, was one of many mentioned in a law passed by Iran’s parliament last month in response to the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist. Although the purity level needed to produce nuclear weapons is 90%, way above Iran’s announcement of enriching uranium to up to 20% purity, the decision has caused a stir among other signatories of the deal. 

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