Another Yoon chaffy gaffe on Iran

January 17, 2023 - 22:29

TEHRAN- While visiting Abu Dhabi, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who is frequently criticized for making shallow gaffes, raised eyebrows on Sunday by declaring that Iran is the UAE's “rival and largest danger”.

Yoon made such a remark despite the fact that Tehran and Abu Dhabi have made efforts to strengthen their relations.

The South Korean leader made a comparison between the supposed threat presented to his country by North Korea and what he dubbed the “threat” confronting Abu Dhabi from Iran when speaking to the Korean military personnel stationed in the UAE during a recent visit to the Persian Gulf Arab state. 

Addressing the soldiers, he said, “The security of the UAE, which is our brother nation, is our security.” Yoon added, “Iran poses the greatest threat to the UAE, whilst North Korea is our adversary. The UAE and we are in a very similar situation.”

The South Korean president's most recent comments on Iran’s ties with the UAE have drawn harsh vitriol from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, which demanded an explanation from Seoul.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is responding to Yoon “interventionist” comments about the state of the Islamic Republic's relations with the UAE, Nasser Kanaani, the ministry's spokesperson, said on Monday.

Kanaani said the South Korean president’s words “reveal his complete ignorance of the historical and amicable relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Persian Gulf littoral countries, including the UAE.” 

The spurious allegations made by the South Korean president has left a trail of his ignorance and lack of understanding towards high-speed and positive developments between both countries, the spokesman pointed out. 

“The Foreign Ministry is diligently pursuing the recent positions of this country, especially the remarks made by its president, on the relations between Iran and the UAE,” he said, adding Yoon’s remarks “totally lack diplomatic validity.” 

Kanaani went to say that Iran is expecting an answer from the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

The latest move comes at a time when, in addition to its president’s unguarded remarks, South Korea has been withholding billions of dollars of Iranian assets under the guise that they have been frozen as a result of Washington's unilateral sanctions against Tehran.

Unofficial estimates believed Iran has more than $7 billion in funds in two South Korean banks. So far Seoul has refused to unfreeze them.

Prior to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions following Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran deal, officially known as the Joint Compressive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran was South Korea's main source of oil and condensate.

In a clumsy move, the Foreign Ministry of South Korea hastily clarified that Yoon's comments were just meant to bolster the morale of South Korean troops deployed in the UAE. 

It also noted in a text message sent to reporters on Tuesday that Yoon's comments regarding Iran were “irrelevant” to Seoul's ties with Tehran.

Yoon’s comment should not be “necessarily over-interpreted,” the ministry advised, adding that it was made in the context of supporting South Korean troops in the UAE.

Seoul has a great commitment to advancing its cordial relations with Iran, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said.

“Our country has long maintained cordial and cooperative connections with Iran since establishing diplomatic relations with it in 1962, and our resolve to continue expanding the friendly bilateral relations with Iran remains steadfast,” the ministry stated.

The blunder was embarrassing for all sides, according to Kim Joon-hyung, the former head of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy. 

“Neither the UAE nor Iran were pleased with Yoon’s words. Both countries should find this shameful,” Kim added.

Yoon’s first international trip this year, according to the liberal opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), was a “diplomatic disaster” that gave the false impression that Seoul considered Iran as a possible foe.

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