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Iran suggests debt prompted South Korea tanker seizure

While Iran initially said the seizure was over environmental violations, speculation is gaining momentum that the measure was intended to force Seoul into transferring withheld funds to Tehran.
A picture obtained by AFP from the Iranian news agency Tasnim on January 4, 2021, shows the South Korean-flagged tanker being escorted by Iran's Revolutionary Guards navy after being seized in the Gulf. - "A Korean ship was seized in Persian Gulf waters by the Revolutionary Guard's navy and transferred to our country's ports," Fars news agency said without naming the vessel. "This tanker had a South Korea flag and was seized over oil pollution and environmental hazards," it added. (Photo by - / TASNIM NEWS

“We caught the thief,” read a headline in the hard-line Iranian newspaper Vatan Emrooz one day after armed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) soldiers boarded a South Korean tanker in the Persian Gulf. The unit arrested the crew and took control of the vessel.

The editorial fueled speculation that Iran’s move was a tactical decision to force the South Korean government into unblocking $7 billion in Iranian oil sales held due to US sanctions and banking restrictions imposed on business with Tehran.

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