Iran has refused South Korea’s offer of medical supplies and demanded $7 billion in cash to release a South Korean-flagged tanker it seized in the Persian Gulf on January 4.
The $ 7 billion being demanded is equal to an amount in Iranian assets seized in South Korea due to U.S. sanction against Tehran.
South Korea (SK) pulled its anti-piracy Cheonghae Unit from the Strait of Hormuz near Iran in a show of good faith in the negotiation to release a South Korea-flagged tanker seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps for polluting the sea, SK officials said as reported by Korea Herald.
Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IGRC) had seized the tanker on January 4 citing “environmental concerns.” In response, South Korea had deployed its anti-piracy destroyer off the Iranian coast. South Korea withdrew the destroyer in a sign of goodwill before fielding a delegation there.”
The delegation, headed by the vice foreign minister here, returned empty-handed Thursday, after a five-day trip where Seoul and Tehran failed to work out differences over $7 billion in funds frozen in Korean banks because of U.S. sanctions.
Iran, seen as leveraging the seizure to secure the cash, refused the delegation’s offer to pay back the sum via medical supplies, and continues to accuse the tanker of “environmental pollution.” The vessel operator has denied it polluted the sea.
The blocking of Iranian assets in South Korea followed U.S. sanctions on Iran in 2018 after it unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal made with five other major powers that sought curbs on its nuclear programs in exchange for sanctions relief.
Meanwhile, The head of the Iran-South Korea Chamber of Commerce, Hossein Tanhaie announced the possibility of releasing the seized South Korean oil tanker in the near future.
"Several meetings between the Korean delegation and Iran`s Ministry of Foreign Affairs were held. In the meeting with the presence of Vice President Ishaq Jahangiri, the measures to clear the Iranian blocked money in S. Korea by the private sector were discussed," he said.