Treading carefully with Iran

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Treading carefully with Iran

The United States government has announced a Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act, a new set of toughened trade sanctions that also forbids foreign multinationals with American ties from trading with Iran.

The U.S. took the action to coordinate an international campaign to stamp out Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and the act was announced months ahead of its scheduled debut in early October.

Our government will inevitably have to respond. Seoul had been hoping to buy time and avoid U.S. pressure to join the sanctions because of Iran’s threat to slap punitive, sky-high tariffs on Korean imports and stop giving Korean companies construction projects.

But it cannot bury its head forever. It also cannot come to a quick decision considering the damage to local companies.

The United Nations Security Council in June passed a resolution to enforce new sanctions on Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program. The U.S. trotted out unilateral sanctions and sought similar actions from allied countries and trading partners.

Respecting the U.S. government’s decision, the European Union, Canada and Australia have announced separate sanctions on top of the UN’s to further isolate Iran.

Korea is expected to join in the sanctions as a key ally of the U.S. As a responsible member of the international community, we would have to take part in sanctions against a country not complying with its nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

We are naturally expected to play a vital role, especially as host of the upcoming G-20 conference. And living with a nuclear threat from North Korea, we have no grounds to resist the international sanctions.

If we shy away from the diplomatic onus because of immediate economic losses, we face greater harm in the long run on the national level.

We have to take comfort in thinking it would be better to endure losses now to than to eschew future advantages.

Iran is a huge market and important trade partner for us. Bilateral trade is $10 billion a year. It is also Korea’s fourth-largest oil supplier. Some 2,000 companies are involved in business with the Iranian government and local enterprises.

We should somehow map out careful actions to minimize the damage to local companies while joining the international campaign. The government should concentrate its efforts on helping companies continue their business without violating the UN resolution or the U.S. law.
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