S. Korea, Iran summon each other’s envoys over Yoon comment

Jan 18, 2023, 9:38 AM | Updated: Jan 19, 2023, 5:45 am
South Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lim Soo-suk speaks during a briefing on President Yoon Suk...

South Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lim Soo-suk speaks during a briefing on President Yoon Suk Yeol's recent remark on Iran at the ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (Choe Jae-koo/Yonhap via AP)

(Choe Jae-koo/Yonhap via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea and Iran have summoned each other’s ambassadors in a diplomatic spat triggered by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s comments describing Iran as the “enemy” of the United Arab Emirates during a trip to that country this week.

While visiting South Korean special forces stationed in the UAE on Monday, Yoon described the hosts as South Korea’s “brother nation” tied by growing economic and military cooperation, and then compared the threat he said UAE faces from Iran to the threat South Korea faces from nuclear-armed North Korea.

“The security of our brother nation is our security,” Yoon said. “The enemy of the UAE, its most-threatening nation, is Iran, and our enemy is North Korea.”

Yoon’s remarks triggered an irritated response from Iran’s Foreign Ministry, which said it was investigating Yoon’s “interfering statements.” South Korea’s government insists Yoon was trying to encourage the South Korean troops in the UAE and didn’t intend to comment on Iran’s foreign relations, urging against an “unnecessary overinterpretation” of his comments.

About 150 South Korean troops are stationed in the UAE, engaging in combined special forces training and other joint military activities. The deployment, which began in 2011, grew out South Korea’s deal with the UAE to build the country’s first nuclear power plant.

South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong on Thursday called Iranian Ambassador Saeed Badamchi Shabestari to the ministry to explain Seoul’s stance “once again,” ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk said in a briefing.

Lim said the meeting came in response to the summoning of South Korea’s ambassador to Tehran by the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday over Yoon’s comments.

Lim said Shabestari told Cho that he would “faithfully” convey Seoul’s explanation of Yoon’s comments to his bosses in Tehran, but didn’t provide further details about the conversation.

“As we explained several times, (Yoon’s) reported comments were meant to encourage our troops serving their duties in the UAE, and had nothing to do with Iran’s foreign relations, including South Korea-Iran relations,” Lim said. “Our government’s will to develop relations with Iran remains unchanged.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said on its website that its deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, Reza Najafi, lodged a “strong protest” over Yoon’s “meddlesome comments” after summoning South Korean Ambassador Yun Kang-hyeon.

Najafi said during the meeting that Yoon’s comments were “tantamount to interference” in what he described as Iran’s friendly relations with most Gulf states and undermined “peace and security in the region,” the ministry said.

Najafi also mentioned friction between Iran and South Korea over billions of dollars in Iranian funds remaining in Seoul, frozen by American sanctions over Iran’s collapsed nuclear deal with world powers.

Najafi said South Korea’s failure to resolve the dispute could prompt Tehran to reconsider bilateral ties, according to his ministry. Iran held a South Korean oil tanker for months in 2021 amid the dispute.

Najafi also took issue with separate comments by Yoon on North Korea and questioned whether South Korea is considering acquiring its own nuclear weapons in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a suggestion Lim dismissed as “groundless.”

In a meeting with defense officials in Seoul last week, Yoon entertained the possibility of South Korea pushing for a redeployment of American nuclear weapons or seeking a deterrent of its own if North Korea’s growing nuclear threat gets out of control.

But Yoon made clear those scenarios weren’t part of his official policy and emphasized his “realistic” goal of strengthening South Korea’s defense under its alliance with the United States, including joint military planning potentially involving U.S. assets, and boosting the South’s own capability to retaliate to deter North Korean attacks.

“The comments of our president were intended to (emphasize the importance) of strengthening the effectiveness of the (U.S.) extended deterrence to counter North Korea’s escalating nuclear and missile threats,” Lim said, referring to the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea with the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear ones.

“Our country has been sincerely carrying out our nonproliferation obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and there has been no change to our willingness to carry out those obligations,” Lim said.

Yoon’s comments during his UAE visit, which have been criticized by his political opponents at home as a “diplomatically disastrous,” came as the UAE attempts to hedge in its relationship with Iran, a major business partner. The UAE also is home to around 3,500 American troops at Al Dhafra Air Base, a naval outpost in Fujairah and other locations.

The UAE has spent billions of dollars purchasing South Korean surface-to-air missile systems in part of efforts to protect itself against aerial threats. Those threats include long-range drone attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels — weapons likely built by or with Tehran’s help.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer reac...
Associated Press

Man rescued by Coast Guard wanted in ‘Goonies’ fish incident

A man who was saved by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer at the mouth of the Columbia River as a massive wave rolled the yacht he was piloting Friday was wanted for a bizarre incident in which police said he left a dead fish at the Astoria, Oregon, home featured in the classic 1985 film, "The Goonies."
23 hours ago
FILE - An Amazon company logo on the company's building in Schoenefeld near Berlin, Germany, March ...
Associated Press

Amazon violated labor law with delivery app

A Spanish court has ruled that Amazon broke labor laws by forcing more than 2,000 delivery drivers to use an app that the company controlled for scheduling work and payments and requiring them to use their own cars and cellphones on the job.
23 hours ago
Harry Styles attends the premiere of "My Policeman" at the Princess of Wales Theatre during the Tor...
Associated Press

Grammys could make history with Beyoncé, Bad Bunny wins

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Will Beyoncé emerge from the Grammy Awards as its most decorated artist ever? That’s one of the main storylines heading into Sunday’s ceremony, where the superstar is the leading nominee and needs four wins to make history. Several of music’s biggest names, including Beyoncé, are in the running for the night’s […]
23 hours ago
This combination of photos shows top nominees for the Gramy Awards, from left, Adele, Beyonce and H...
Associated Press

Grammys 2023 live updates: Latest news from red carpet, show

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Follow along for real-time, on-the-carpet and behind-the-scenes updates on the 2023 Grammy Awards from The Associated Press. Live updates — any times Pacific — are brought to you by AP journalists at the show in Los Angeles and around the country. ___ INTRO TRACK The 2023 Grammy Awards show is upon […]
23 hours ago
Bridgit Smith, executive director of the Insight Women's Center stands outside the door to its educ...
Associated Press

US states take control of abortion debate with funding focus

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Though the Insight Women’s Center sits at the epicenter of a reinvigorated battle in the nation’s culture wars, the only hint of its faith-based mission to dissuade people from getting abortions is the jazzy, piano rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” playing in a waiting room. The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature is considering […]
23 hours ago
This photo provided by Jason Sellers shows U.S. Air Force fighter aircraft shooting down a suspecte...
Associated Press

Chinese balloon’s downing creates spectacle over tourism hub

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — The downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon just off South Carolina’s coast created a spectacle over one of the state’s tourism hubs and drew crowds reacting with a mixture of bewildered gazing, distress and cheering. The balloon was struck by a missile from an F-22 fighter just off Myrtle […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
S. Korea, Iran summon each other’s envoys over Yoon comment