Iran denies seized Korean ship and crew are being held as hostages
On Tuesday, Iran denied claims that it was using a South Korean ship and holding its crew as hostages. However, Iranian forces did seize the tanker in the Gulf and pressed Seoul to release $7 billion in frozen funds. The ship, MT Hankuk Chemi, was near the Strait of Hormuz when it was captured. Many see the move as an attempt by Tehran to assert its demands and gain money frozen under US sanctions. The attack’s timing is also peculiar, just two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office in the US.
Iran wants Biden to lift the sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump. However, Tehran has been criticized in the past for using tactics such as taking foreign prisoners and capturing ships as a method of gaining leverage in negotiations and achieving its policy goals. South Korea called for the ship to be released and has sent a delegation to Iran to negotiate. Iran claims that the ship was held over environmental violations.