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South Korea says reviewing planned diplomatic visit to Tehran after Iran seizes tanker

South Korea says reviewing planned diplomatic visit to Tehran after Iran seizes tanker

South Korea's Foreign Ministry is reviewing whether a senior diplomat will visit Tehran on Sunday as planned, an official said, after Iranian forces seized a South Korean-flagged chemical tanker in Gulf waters and detained its crew.

The incident comes amid tensions between Tehran and Seoul over Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks due to US sanctions. Iranian state television quoted a Tehran government official as saying that Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun should discuss Iran's demand that $ 7 billion in frozen funds be released.

In Seoul, an official with the Foreign Ministry told Reuters that "the plan is unclear so far" regarding Choi's visit.

Iranian media said on Monday that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had seized the Hankuk Chemi tanker for pollution violations. The ship was carrying 7,200 tons of ethanol.

South Korea's foreign minister said Tuesday that it is making diplomatic efforts to secure the tanker's release, the Yonhap news agency reported.

South Korea says reviewing planned diplomatic visit to Tehran after Iran seizes tanker

Kang Kyung-wha told reporters that he had first responded to his counterparts in Iran on Monday and that the ministry is now in talks with diplomats in Tehran and Seoul to resolve the issue.

Iranian state television quoted Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, as saying that the ship had been seized for "polluting the sea."

Last Sunday, the Tehran Times newspaper reported that Iran was hoping to negotiate a deal to use the frozen funds to "trade" for doses of coronavirus vaccine and other commodities.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on that report.

When asked about Iran's intentions for the frozen assets, Kang said that the safety of the ship's crew was more important, Yonhap said.

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