Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has seized South Korean tanker Hankuk Chemi, citing pollution as a reason for the action.
The chemical tanker was carrying petrochemical products from the Saudi Arabian Al-Jubayl port to UAE’s Fujairah port at the time of the seizing on January 4.
Iran and South Korea are in a dispute over billions of dollars of oil-export revenue, with Iran accusing South Korea it was illegally withholding funds. According to a Bloomberg report, Abdolnaser Hemmati, the head of the Central Bank of Iran, said South Korea’s actions prevented Iran from using the money to buy foods and medicines, which are exempt from US sanctions.
South Korea’s defense ministry has already deployed an anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz in response to the incident.
The IRGC directed the tanker to Bandar Abbas, where the “judicial officials” will deal with the issue. DM Shipping, the operator of the seized ship, said the vessel did not pollute waters in the Persian Gulf.
Iran’s actions come in the wake of a US decision to keep an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf earlier this week. USS Nimitz had been ordered to sail back home on December 31, 2020, but acting US defense secretary Christopher C Miller ordered the carrier to remain on station due to “recent threats issued by Iranian leaders.”