According to a report from the Iranian media, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps has seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in Gulf waters and has detained its crew. The development comes in the wake of South Korean banks freezing Iranian funds following U.S. sanctions.
Confirming the seizure of its tanker Seoul demanded its immediate release.
According to several Iranian media outlets Iranian Guards have seized the vessel for polluting the Gulf with chemicals.
“According to initial reports by local officials, it is purely a technical matter and the ship was taken to shore for polluting the sea,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh.
According to Iranian state TV, detained crew members includes nationals from Myanmar, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia. The tanker is being held at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port city.
According to South Korea’s foreign ministry, the ship had crew of 20 members.
The U.S. State Department has called for an immediate release of the tanker.
“The regime continues to threaten navigational rights and freedoms in the Persian Gulf as part of a clear attempt to extort the international community into relieving the pressure of sanctions,” said a representative from the U.S. State Department.
According to Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy, the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is aware of the incident and is monitoring the situation.
The development comes ahead of an expected visit by South Korea’s deputy foreign minister to Tehran. During the visit officials say discussions would revolve around Iran’s demand to release $7 billion frozen by South Korean banks following U.S. sanctions.