Seoul’s defense ministry confirmed the military’s anti-piracy unit arrived at the Strait of Hormuz where Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker, the MT Hankuk Chemi.
Iran has reportedly seized the vessel citing environmental and chemical pollution by the ship an allegation the operator of the tanker denies.
The Cheonghae unit, made up of a four,400 ton destroyer, a Lynx helicopter and some 300 military personnel plans to work with the Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Forces for the ship’s early release.
A total of 20 crew members were aboard the oil tanker including five South Korean nationals, 11 Myanmar nationals, two Indonesians and two Vietnamese nationals.

“The Cheonghae Unit arrived at the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday morning Korea time. But for the safety of the Korean nationals, we’ll refrain from explaining further about the unit’s operations at this time.”

Foreign reports see Iran’s recent move as part of efforts aimed at increasing Tehran’s leverage so it can have international sanctions removed.
The sanctions were reinstated following the U.S.’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.
Reuters reported that the U.S. State Department has called on Iran to immediately release the tanker while the AP reported Iran has begun increasing its uranium enrichment to 20-percent purity about which it had notified the International Atomic Energy Agency last week.
One-third of global crude passes through the Strait of Hormuz.
South Korea’s oil tankers, which carry more than 70-percent of imported crude from oil-producing countries, pass through the Strait some 900 times a year.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.

Reporter : jiyeonkim@arirang.co.kr

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