A South Korean warship sailed into the Persian Gulf on Tuesday after Iran seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in the waters.
South Korea’s defense ministry said the destroyer Choi Young was operating near the Strait of Hormuz. “It is carrying out missions to ensure the safety of our nationals,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson Boo Seung Chan said of the destroyer.
South Korea has approximately 300 members of an anti-piracy unit that have been operating in the region since last year and are reportedly on board the Choi Young destroyer.
Officials in Seoul insist that the situation with Iran will be resolved diplomatically, despite the deployment of the warship. South Korea is sending a delegation to Iran to negotiate the release of the tanker ahead of a planned visit to Tehran next week.
Iranian media first reported the seizure of the South Korean tanker Hankuk Chemi on Monday. The ship was carrying about 7,200 tons of chemicals and sailing from Saudi Arabia to the UAE.
Iranian officials said the ship was seized for violating environmental protocols and polluting the waters of the Gulf, but some suspect it is related to the $7 billion of Iranian funds South Korea has frozen due to US sanctions.