South Korea is the latest country to impose independent sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. The announcement comes after weeks of internal government discussions and pressure by the United States.
The South Korean government is blacklisting 102 Iranian entities, including 14 banks and 24 individuals. It says there will also be stricter inspections of cargo related to Iran.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun says Seoul is taking the measures in line with international efforts to penalize Iran for its uranium enrichment program.
Kim says the South Korean government expects Iran to respond to the international effort to halt nuclear proliferation by following the demands of the United Nations Security Council.
Under the new sanctions here, even the smallest transaction by the Seoul branch of Iran's Bank Mellat will require South Korean government approval. But the government has not ordered the branch to close.
The U.S. government contends that the bank has been involved in transactions related to Iran's nuclear, missile and other military programs. The U.S. had urged Seoul to take action against Iran.
But imposing tough sanctions against Tehran was not a simple decision for South Korea.
Iran is South Korea's fourth largest supplier of oil. And South Korean construction companies have significant projects there.
The new measures do not ban oil imports but they will restrict new investment by South Korean companies in Iran's petroleum sector.
South Korean businesses contend the action could jeopardize $10 billion worth of annual trade. Iran's ambassador here repeatedly warned that sanctions could see South Korean companies replaced by others.
But supporters of the move called it the right thing to do.
They noted Washington, the country's biggest military ally, stood shoulder to shoulder with Seoul following the sinking of a South Korean warship in late March. An international investigation blamed a torpedo from North Korea, the other significant nuclear rogue nation. In wake of the sinking, the United States earlier this month also expanded financial sanctions against North Korea.
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