S. Korean ministry calls in Iranian envoy to explain Yoon’s controversial remarks during UAE visit

SEOUL-- South Korea's foreign ministry on Thursday called in Iran's ambassador to Seoul to explain President Yoon Suk Yeol's recent public remarks describing Iran as the "enemy" of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Yoon likened UAE-Iran relations to those of South and North Korea during a meeting with South Korean troops stationed in the UAE earlier this week. Seoul's foreign ministry has stressed his comments were "irrelevant" to Seoul's relations with Iran and urged against "unnecessary overinterpretation."

South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong called in Saeed Badamchi Shabestari, the Iranian ambassador to Seoul, and "explained again Seoul's position," the ministry's spokesperson Lim Soo-suk said during a regular press briefing.

The move came as the Iranian foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned the South Korean ambassador to Tehran in connection with the matter. Cho and Shabestari reportedly discussed bilateral relations in the meeting that lasted about an hour.

The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Seoul, meanwhile, said it has been in "communication" with the ministry and "this diplomatic communication will continue in future."

"As (we) explained several times, the reported remarks were made as words of encouragement to our soldiers who are on duty in the UAE," Lim said, adding that the remarks were "irrelevant" to the South Korea-Iran ties and Iran's international relations.

Lim also said the Iranian ministry's claim that Yoon's earlier remarks on Seoul's possible move to seek the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons or possession of its own nukes against North Korea's threats as contradicting its stated commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was "groundless."

"Those were in line with the intention of strengthening the effectiveness of extended deterrence in order to respond to North Korea's escalating nuclear and missile threats," Lim said.

Cho reportedly told the Iranian ambassador that Seoul was faithfully fulfilling its NPT obligations and remains firm in maintaining related commitments in place.

According to sources, the government is also reportedly discussing measures on advising caution for South Korean vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz over possible retaliatory seizure incidents.

In January 2021, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps seized a South Korean ship carrying 20 crew members, including five Koreans, and traveling in the strait. It was released about three months later, but speculation persisted that the seizure was linked to Iran's anger over its US$7 billion frozen in South Korea under U.S. sanctions.

Source: Yonhap News Agency