South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha asked his US counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to grant his country a waiver for new US sanctions targeting Iran's partners in a recent phone call.
“Minister Kang requested the US side exert maximum flexibility so that South Korea can secure an exemption to minimize the damage to our companies,” the statement of the South Korean Foreign Ministry reads.
According to the ministry, Pompeo said that he noted Seoul’s position and promised further discussions.
South Korea is one of Asia’s biggest importers of Iranian crude oil, which is expected to be targeted with a new round of US sanctions, scheduled to come into force on November 5. Seoul fears a negative impact on South Korean companies, which have projects and deals with Iran as the expected curbs on the financial flows would hamper payments sent to the Islamic republic.
Another US ally, Japan, has been in talks with Washington to minimize the effect of the re-introduced sanctions against Iran. Tokyo enjoyed exemptions from the previous wave of sanctions, which were lifted as part of the multi-lateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in exchange for Tehran's agreement to shut down its nuclear weapons program.
Mirroring the sentiments of Israel and hawks within the United States, President Donald Trump announced the unilateral exit of the US from the treaty in May 2018, decrying it as "the worst deal ever." The remaining signatories of the deal, the other four UN Security Council members plus Germany and the EU leadership, pledged to keep the agreement alive, announcing the creation of a payment mechanism to let companies bypass US sanctions as they do business with Iran.