Seoul stated it had dispatched an anti-piracy unit to the delicate waters close to the Strait of Hormuz after the Korean-flagged Hankuk Chemi and its crew of 20 have been captured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Iran stated the ship was seized for ‘repeated infringement of maritime environmental legal guidelines’, however it comes amid Iranian calls for for South Korea to launch $7billion in property that have been frozen due to US sanctions.
The top of Iran’s central financial institution stated lately that Tehran wished to make use of funds tied up in a South Korean financial institution to purchase coronavirus vaccines for its 83million inhabitants.
However an Iranian authorities spokesman at present rejected claims that the seizure amounted to hostage-taking, claiming it was South Korea that was holding $7billion ‘hostage’.
‘We have turn into used to such allegations… but when there’s any hostage-taking, it’s Korea’s authorities that’s holding $7 billion which belongs to us hostage on baseless grounds,’ spokesman Ali Rabiei advised reporters.
The US final night time known as the seizure ‘a part of a transparent try and extort the worldwide neighborhood’ and joined South Korea’s demand for the tanker to be launched.
It comes amid excessive tensions within the Center East one 12 months on from the US drone strike that killed Iranian common Qassem Soleimani, leaving the foes on the point of conflict.
Beneath escort: The South Korean-flagged tanker Hankuk Chemi is escorted by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps boats within the Gulf on Monday
View from the bridge: A Revolutionary Guards boat, circled proper, is seen in CCTV footage taken from the Hankuk Chemi, as watched from South Korea by proprietor DM Transport
The US has already reversed a call to carry the plane service USS Nimitz house from the Gulf, blaming ‘latest threats’ emanating from Iran.
So as to add to the tensions, Iran stated on Monday it had began the method to complement uranium to twenty per cent purity, a brief technical step away from the weapons-grade degree of 90 per cent.
Iran is hoping that Joe Biden will ease sanctions on Iran after he takes workplace on January 20, however there are fears that tensions may nonetheless boil over earlier than then.
Vipin Narang, an professional on nuclear technique on the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise, warned that Donald Trump was sending indicators of ‘whole chaos’.
‘If I have been Iran proper now, I’d really be pondering that it is attainable that Trump is so unhinged and so indignant concerning the election that he could overreact to any slight provocation,’ Narang stated.
Trump had warned that he would maintain Iran accountable for the killings of any Individuals after the US embassy in Baghdad was hit by rockets per week in the past.
However Sunday’s anniversary of the Soleimani drone strike handed with out violence, regardless of indignant demonstrations and Tehran’s requires vengeance.
The seizure of the South Korean vessel got here days earlier than Seoul’s deputy overseas minister was because of go to the Islamic republic.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards stated the ship carrying 7,200 tonnes of chemical merchandise was manned by a crew from South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.
The tanker was seized close to the delicate Strait of Hormuz (as proven on the map), as Iran introduced that it was resuming uranium enrichment to twenty per cent
Iran claimed that the Hankuk Chemi (pictured) was seized for ‘repeated infringement of maritime environmental legal guidelines’
The Guards didn’t specify the place the tanker was seized however stated it was transferred to Bandar Abbas port in Hormozgan with the ‘case handed to judicial authorities’.
Photos launched by the Guards appeared to point out three speedboats and a patrol boat approaching the tanker.
Iranian overseas ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh claimed that the tanker’s seizure was over a ‘purely technical challenge and because of polluting the ocean’.
‘Similar to different nations, Iran is delicate in direction of such infractions, particularly polluting the maritime surroundings,’ he stated.
However the tanker’s operator DM Transport denied that the vessel had polluted waters, South Korea’s Yonhap information company reported.
Shortly earlier than information of the ship’s seizure, Khatibzadeh had complained at a press convention concerning the ‘gradual’ means of unfreezing funds from Iranian oil gross sales, blocked by Seoul over fears of violating US sanctions.
Trump re-imposed robust sanctions on Iran after abandoning the nuclear deal that Barack Obama had struck with Tehran and different world powers in 2015.
Final night time the overseas ministry in Seoul stated it had confirmed the protection of the crew and was now demanding that the vessel be launched.
The nation’s defence ministry stated it had dispatched its anti-piracy Cheonghae unit to waters close to the Strait of Hormuz.
The newest tensions within the Gulf come after the January 3 anniversary of the US drone strike that killed Iranian common Qassem Soleimani (pictured, demonstrators in Baghdad the place he died)
In Washington, a State Division spokesperson known as the seizure of the ship ‘a part of a transparent try and extort the worldwide neighborhood into relieving the strain of sanctions’.
‘We be a part of the Republic of Korea’s name for Iran to instantly launch the tanker,’ stated the spokesperson.
The incident was the primary seizure of a significant vessel by the Iranian navy in additional than a 12 months.
In July 2019, the Guards seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero within the delicate Strait of Hormuz for allegedly ramming a fishing boat and launched it two months later.
It was broadly seen as a tit-for-tat transfer after Gibraltar detained an Iranian tanker which was suspected of violating EU sanctions in opposition to Syria.
Tehran denied the 2 instances have been associated.
The Guards seized at the least six different ships in 2019 over alleged gas smuggling, whereas different tankers have been hit by mysterious explosions that have been blamed on Iran.
The US stated it had discovered fragments of a limpet mine on one vessel attacked within the Gulf of Oman which have been ‘strikingly’ just like these seen in Iranian navy parades.
Final week, sailors found a limpet mine caught on a tanker off the coast of Iraq, close to the Iranian border, because it ready to switch gas to a different vessel.
The incidents have raised fears over the protection of oil provides within the Strait of Hormuz – a chokepoint via which a fifth of world oil output passes.
Timeline: Flashpoints in Gulf waters amid tensions between US and Iran
Could 5, 2019: The US says it’s sending the USS Abraham Lincoln service group and a bomber activity drive to the Center East amid ‘troubling and escalatory indications and warnings’ coming from Iran.
Washington additionally sends an amphibious assault ship, a Patriot missile battery and 1,500 troops.
Could 12, 2019: Two Saudi oil tankers and two different ships are broken in mysterious ‘sabotage assaults’ off the coast of the UAE, days after Donald Trump introduced new sanctions in opposition to Iran.
Two days later, pro-Iran rebels perform drone assaults that shut down a key Saudi oil pipeline.
Could 29, 2019: Trump’s then-national safety adviser John Bolton says the sabotage assaults have been brought on by naval mines ‘virtually definitely from Iran’.
A UAE investigation later says an unidentified state was doubtless behind the assaults, stopping wanting instantly blaming Iran.
June 13, 2019: Two extra tankers, Norwegian and Japanese, come underneath assault within the Gulf of Oman.
The US navy accuses Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of focusing on the ships with limpet mines. Tehran denies this.
July 4, 2019: The Iranian tanker Grace 1 is seized off Gibraltar for allegedly taking oil to Syria in defiance of EU sanctions. Iran claims that Washington ordered Britain to grab the vessel.
July 19, 2019: Iran seizes a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, in what’s broadly seen as retaliation for the Gibraltar incident – though Iran claims it was because of maritime technicalities. Britain later beefs up its naval presence within the area.
January 4, 2020: Two British warships are ordered to escort UK-flagged ships via the Strait of Hormuz amid excessive tensions following the US drone strike that killed Iranian common Qassem Soleimani.
April 23, 2020: Revolutionary Guards chief Hossein Salami says he has ordered Tehran’s naval forces to destroy any US warships that threaten the ‘safety’ of Iranian vessels, after Trump stated he had advised the US Navy to fireplace on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea.
January 4, 2021: Iran seizes a South Korean-flagged tanker within the Gulf, the primary such seizure in additional than a 12 months.
It comes amid Iranian strain on Seoul to launch $7billion in Iranian oil funds which might be frozen due to US sanctions.