Iran denied accusations that it was using a South Korean ship and its crew as hostages, a day after it seized Hankuk Chemi in the Gulf.
As Reuters reports, the seizure of the MT Hankuk Chemi and its crew has been seen as an attempt by Iran to assert its demands, just two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Specifically, Iran wants Biden to lift sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump. However, Iran’s critics have long accused it of capturing ships and foreigners in order to gain leverage in negotiations.
What is more, South Korea summoned the Iranian ambassador, called for the ship to be released. Moreover, it is sending a delegation to Iran to discuss it, with Iran replying that the ship was held over environmental violations.
Nevertheless, the ship’s Busan-based operator, Taikun Shipping Co Ltd, told Reuters that there had been nothing to indicate before the ship was seized that Iranian authorities were probing possible violations of environmental rules.
In addition, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is making diplomatic efforts to release the tanker and had made contact with her counterpart in Tehran.
As for the status of the ship’s crew, sources report that all of them are safe.
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