Ministry launches team on Middle East tensions in wake of U.S. airstrike killing top Iranian general
SEOUL-- The foreign ministry launched a team of relevant officials Sunday to discuss measures to protect South Korean nationals and businesspeople in the Middle East, where tensions spiked after last week's U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general.
First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young presided over its inaugural meeting to analyze the situation in the increasingly volatile region, check the safety of South Koreans and discuss other related issues, ministry officials said.
The ministry in coordination with its diplomatic missions in the region plans to run an emergency response system around the clock until the situation in the region stabilizes.
On Monday, the ministry plans to convene a working-level meeting with officials from other government agencies, including the ministries of industry, land, defense and oceans, to discuss a whole government approach.
Tensions surged on Friday when the U.S. military killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, in a drone strike in Iraq, marking a major escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei warned of harsh revenge, while U.S. President Donald Trump, who approved the airstrike, threatened to attack "52 Iranian sites" should Iran strike "any Americans or American assets."
Analysts said that despite such tough warnings against each other, they appear to be against full-blown war, though the possibility remains that they could engage in an exchange of harsh rhetoric, cyberincursions or regional proxy conflicts.
The tensions between the U.S. and Iran have sparked concerns here about the safety of South Koreans in the region and oil price surges or fluctuations, as well as the potential impact on Seoul's ties with Tehran.
The number of South Koreans in Iraq and Iran are about 1,600 and 290, respectively. There are also 150 and 700 South Koreans in Lebanon and Israel each. They are currently safe, ministry officials said.
Source: Yonhap News Agency