ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday urged South Korea and Iran to exercise restraint amid fears that a maritime dispute between the two countries could escalate.
Seoul has moved military forces close to the Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker on Monday. The Hankuk Chemi, with 20 crew members on board, was traveling from Saudi Arabia to the UAE when it was intercepted and taken to the port of Bandar Abbas.
While officials in Seoul said they are pursuing a diplomatic solution to the crisis, the South Korean navy’s destroyer, Choi Young, arrived in the area on Tuesday.
“We have noted the development (in the Strait of Hormuz). We urge all sides to exercise restraint,” said Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office. “All the differences pertaining to maritime affairs should be resolved as per international laws.”
Experts in Pakistan warned that a potentially dangerous situation is developing in the region and it must be addressed as soon as possible.
“Any disturbance in this part of the world, which contributes about 65 percent to the world oil trade, should be a matter of grave concern — the stakes are high for every country,” Rear Adm. Saleem Akhtar, a retired naval officer and maritime affairs expert, told Arab News.
He said that the situation was of particular concern to Pakistan given its its close proximity to the Strait of Hormuz.
“If it escalates, it could be a very dangerous situation for Pakistan,” he added. “It will affect our merchant ships and make trade far more expensive and difficult; 95 percent of our trade comes from this place.”
Korean officials said on Thursday that a government delegation was traveling from Seoul to Tehran to secure the release of the tanker and its crew.
Retired Vice Adm. Khan Hasham bin Saddique, Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia and another expert on maritime affairs, said it is a good sign that a Korean delegation has been sent to Iran in an attempt to resolve the situation diplomatically.
“The Strait of Hormuz is extremely important for the whole region,” he said. “A diplomatic solution to the problem is good for everyone in the neighborhood, since peace in this area is vital to international trade.”