Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, right, speaks with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon at the foreign ministry in Seoul, Thursday.
/ Courtesy of Israeli Embassy
By Kim Se-jeong
A golden rule followed by diplomats is this: don’t comment officially about ongoing issues. However, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel Daniel Ayalon was different.
Speaking with journalists Thursday in Seoul he talked candidly and directly about Syria, Iran and North Korea. He offered incisive observations regarding the modus operandi of the governments of these nations.
First, he put forward that the Arab Spring wasn’t a success.
“Now, we’ll have a radical Islamic winter,” he said.
In particular in Syria, the minister said, the Sunnis will oppress people the same way President Bashar al-Assad does, if they take power.
Second, “irrational” Iran is very “rational” when it comes to its own survival.
“Sometimes they make threats, but when they see the threats are being ignored, they take the threats back,” he said, referring to a recent stated intention to block the Strait of Hormuz unless the U.S. stops send its warships.
“The U.S. doubled the presence of ships, and Iran backed down.”
For him this is the strongest evidence that exerting pressure is the only way to control Iran.
Third, “it’s very important that Korea stops buying (oil) from Iran,” he said.
The European Union’s recent decision to impose economic sanctions against Iran put Korean companies between a rock and a hard place as they couldn’t buy insurance from Europe for their delivery ships any longer.
According to an official at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, no Iranian oil has entered the Korean market since June. Iran’s offer to insure Korean ships is being considered, but “as far as I know, companies haven’t decided yet,” said the official who refused to disclose his name for inclusion in this article.
Fourth, “Experience with North Korea was that if you don’t put pressure in time, they can cheat.”
Ayalon’s example was the Korea Energy Development Organization established in 1995 to supply energy to North Korea in exchange for dismantling its nuclear weapons development. It stopped working in 2002 after North Korea announced that it had developed a nuclear weapon by enriching uranium.
Regarding bilateral issues, he said Korea and Israel’s free trade agreement negotiations are set to begin, with an aim to complete them by 2013.