For the second time in as many weeks, US officials attempted to sway South Korea’s stance on trade with Iran. On Monday in Seoul, South Korea, Robert Einhorn, the U.S. special adviser on nonproliferation and arms control, made it clear that the US hoped to see South Korea cut its petrochemical importswith the Middle Eastern nation, rallying them to consider an eventual reduction in their Iranian crude oil dependency, stopping short of a full recommendation:
As production capacity increases, it would be possible for countries to reduce their purchases of Iranian crude and to make up the shortfall by acquiring from other countries,” Mr. Einhorn said at a news conference. “But we’re very conscious of the energy-security needs of countries like South Korea and we don’t want to interfere with those needs. (Source: The Wall Street Journal)
Mr. Einhorn’s words come only a few weeks after Wendy Sherman, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and Albright/Secretart of State Clinton protege/advisor, prodded similar action from the South Korean nation.
South Korea imported 350 million dollars of Iranian petrochemicals (2% of its total petro-chem imports) and exported 450 million dollars of their own to Iran last year. A far higher ten percent of South Korea’s crude oil comes for Iran.
The recommendations by Einhorn and Sherman follow an all-out diplomatic assault by the US State Department in recent weeks to shore up its Asian allies and freeze out its regional enemies, including Secretary of State Clinton’s recent trip to Myanmar (Burma), which promised improved ties with the repressive nation in exchange for concessions in reducing their North Korean weapons imports.
This author balks slightly on US diplomats’ heavy-handed diplomacy in regards to what other nations should or should not do, but the following words are somewhat worrisome in light of Iran’s relationship with North Korea:
Last year, Seoul listed 126 Iranian companies and individuals for economic sanctions, including a major banking operation, in response to U.S. and international pressure. Seoul is reportedly considering imposing sanctions targeting the petrochemical industry following the latest round of sanctions by Washington and other Western powers. (Source: The Korea Times)
A 10% crude oil dependency is not easily shifted, but it’s worth the Republic of Korea noting that Iran has been a major trading partner with North Korea in the realms of missile, nuclear, and (apparently) submarine technologies for a good many years now.
Continuously waiting for US pressure to ponder sanctions in light of the above relationship is a strange move for a country trying to pry itself out from under America’s shadow, but then so is trading with a country that’s helping the nation it’s still at war with.
Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 81 post(s) on Asia Security Watch