Tehran authorities forced the Hankuk Chemi tanker, sailing under South Korean flag, to dock in Iran last week, suspecting the vessel of contaminating local waters. At the same time, the Islamic republic rejected accusations that it was holding the ship “hostage”.
Iran’s seizure of the South Korean-flagged Hankuk Chemi tanker was not a provocation aimed at the US, but rather a message to Seoul, an anonymous source – purportedly with ties to Iranian “hardline forces” – told Financial Times.
The main reason for the vessel’s arrest was – according to the anonymous source – to force South Korea to release some $6 billion in payments for Iranian oil, which have long been frozen as a result of the US sanctions against the Islamic republic. The source also claimed that Tehran made the decision after lengthy talks with Seoul saw no change to the situation.
The anonymous FT source added, according to the report, that as the Hankuk Chemi has been seized, South Korean representatives will have to negotiate its release and that is when Iran will whisper in their ears: ‘where is our money?'” South Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choi Jong-Kun is scheduled to meet with Iranian authorities in the near future, according to FT.
The source further stressed that Tehran is not afraid of US retaliation for its move, citing the ongoing political turmoil in the US related to the upcoming inauguration of Joe Biden and Trump’s claims that the the presidential election was rigged.