Korea protests Iranian ambassador over newspaper article

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South Korea summoned Iran’s ambassador after radical newspaper Kayhan suggested Iran block Korean ships in Hormuz to force the release of its frozen funds.

Korean banks have refused to pay around $7 billion owed to Iran over fears of punitive US action against them under ‘maximum pressure’ US sanctions in place since Washington left the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Yeo Seung-bae summoned Ambassador Saeed Badamchi Shabestari on Monday. by Kayhan editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari had writes: “We can and must close the Strait of Hormuz to South Korean cargo ships and tankers and all vessels that carry South Korean goods…and not allow them to navigate the Strait of Hormuz as long as they will not have paid their $7 billion debt to our country.”

Kayhan is funded by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office and its editor is appointed by Khamenei.

Yonhap news agency reported that Shabestari explained that Kayhan was not speaking on behalf of the Iranian government. South Korea has said it would like to see the money transferred, but given US sanctions, it needs Washington’s agreement.

from Tehran the foreign affairs spokesman said on Monday that arrangements for the repatriation of funds from Iran were “none of Washington’s business”. In January 2021, Iran detained a Korean tanker and in April 2021, it banned imports of certain Korean home appliances – ostensibly to pressure Seoul.

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