South Korea seeks to continue to trade with Iran despite sanctions

South Korea is likely to seek exemptions from US sanctions as it seeks to continue to trade with Iran despite the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal, foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha has indicated.

If approved by Washington, the move would surely anger Brussels after Donald Trump’s regime refused to consider similar waivers for the European Union.

Mrs Kyung-wha made her comments during a breakfast seminar at Chatham House in London, during which she discussed last month’s historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un and the ongoing process of denuclearisation.

Mr Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCA) agreement with Iran brokered by his predecessor Barack Obama means that any countries trading with Iran risk falling foul of economic sanctions which have been reimposed on Tehran.

But Mrs Kyung-wha, who is due to fly to New York tomorrow to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said she remained hopeful these could be circumvented.

She said: “The immediate concern is what happens with businesses post-deal.

“I very much hope some kind of deal can be made with all parties and the US.

“It is huge challenge – South Korea imports a lot of crude oil from Iran.”

Mrs Kyung-wha, whose President Moon Jae-in is generally regarded as having been instrumental in bringing Mr Trump and Kim to the negotiating table, confirmed that South Korea was keen to secure exemptions, or “waivers”, in some areas when it came to trading with the Middle Eastern Islamic republic.

French carmaker Peugeot and oil and gas firm Total are both cutting back their activities in the country in the wake of the reimposition of sanctions.

Washington is calling on other countries to stop importing Iranian crude oil and has urged Saudi Arabia to increase its exports to cover the loss to prevent major disruption.

On Monday, Mr Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dashed hopes of any EU exemptions, insisting the US wants to maintain “unprecedented” pressure on Tehran.
They said they were “not in a position to make exceptions to this policy except in very specific circumstances”.

However, in a hint that Mrs Kyung-wha’s hopes may be realised, Mr Pompeo added: “There will be a handful of countries that come to the United States and ask for relief.

“We’ll consider it.”
The move comes at a time of heightened tension between the United States and the EU and fears of a trade war in the face of tit-for-tat tariffs on imports.

Mr Trump’s decision to impose duties on steel and aluminium was met by EU levies on imports including Jack Daniels whiskey and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

He has also threatened to impose tariffs on imports of German cars, much to the alarm of the German automobile industry.

Source » express

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