Looking to Iran

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Looking to Iran

U.S. and European Union sanctions on Iran have been lifted upon the determination that Tehran had complied with its part of a deal reached last summer with global powers to dismantle nuclear facilities. Restoring Iran’s access to world markets will help ease tensions and volatility in the Middle East. Both diplomatic and economic repercussions could be significant.

The removal of sanctions on Iran could affect the North Korean nuclear problem. It could give proponents of harsh action an argument for more effective economic sanctions against Pyongyang to make it surrender its nuclear program. After meeting with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken called for tougher action against North Korea and advised Pyongyang to look to the example of Iran.

But international sanctions cannot generate the same results from North Korea. The country is different from Iran, which suffered extreme pain from UN sanctions. Therefore, we must come up with a practical formula and take the initiative on it. Washington must be relieved that it solved one of its oldest headaches by making Iran give up its nuclear ambitions. Seoul must keep Washington interested in the North Korean issue although there is not much time left in President Barack Obama’s term.

We should also pay attention to the opening of the Iran market. Iran has a population of 80 million and sits on the world’s largest natural gas reserves and fourth largest crude oil capacity. The country plans to spend over $100 billion in infrastructure renovations. Companies from China, Japan and the European Union are champing to get in on the new gold rush.

We joined the sanctions but weren’t hostile with Iran. Before the sanctions, exports to Iran in 2012 hitt $6.2 billion and imports were $11.3 billion in 2011. Last year bilateral trade was $6 billion and the volume is expected to reach an all-time high this year. The government and business sector must join forces to ride the Iranian boom. Demand from Iran could be a windfall for our sagging exports amid uncertain prospects elsewhere.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 18, Page 30

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