[Editorial] No more diplomatic hiccups

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[Editorial] No more diplomatic hiccups

Diplomatic repercussions are getting bigger after President Yoon Suk Yeol made controversial remarks defining Iran as “the enemy of the UAE” during his state visit to the small Middle East country on January 15. After Iran’s foreign ministry summoned Korean ambassador to Teheran to protest the definition, Korea’s foreign ministry called in Iran’s ambassador to Seoul. As Iran’s emotional response to Yoon’s comment does not benefit either side, our foreign ministry must fix the diplomatic hiccup smoothly and quickly by using all diplomatic capabilities of the government.

Yoon made the slip of the tongue in a visit to the Ahk unit the Lee Myung-bak administration dispatched to the UAE in 2011 to help train the special forces of the elective monarchy. At that time, Yoon told the special forces, “The security of the UAE, our brother country, is also our security. Just as the UAE’s enemy and most threatening country is Iran, our enemy is North Korea. We and the UAE face quite a similar situation.”

Probably elated by the bold promise by UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed bin Al-Nahyan of a $30 billion investment in Korea before Yoon’s trip to the Ahk troops, Yoon went so far as to tell the soliders, “This is your home country.”

But his rhetoric drawing a third country on a relatively tense relationship with UAE was not appropriate diplomatically, as it can do more harm than good. As it turned out, Iran protested immediately. A spokesperson of the Iranian foreign ministry expressed serious disgruntlement at the “diplomatically inappropriate remarks” from Yoon, waiting for “an explanation from the Korean foreign ministry.” A day later, our foreign ministry explained that Yoon’s remarks had nothing to do with Iran, cautioning about an over-interpretation.

But Iran’s deputy foreign minister summoned the Korean ambassador to Teheran to reiterate its demand for “immediate explanation and a change in position.”

The Iranian diplomat even demanded Korea explain about Yoon’s mentioning of the need to produce nuclear weapons, saying it’s violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In a weird turn, Iran currently under international sanctions for its attempt at nuclear armaments criticized the Korean president over nuclear issue.

After calling in the Iranian ambassador to Seoul on Thursday, First Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Cho Hyun-dong had to explain what the president meant to say. Stressing Korea’s faithful compliance with the NPT, the minister reportedly brushed off the Iranian ambassador’s claim. Both sides must resolve the case as soon as possible because it benefits neither side.
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