By Lee Haye-ah
WASHINGTON, April 22 (Yonhap) -- Iran must be stopped from acquiring the nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities demonstrated by North Korea, the U.S. envoy for Iran said Monday.
U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook made the remark in an interview with Yonhap News Agency and Yonhap News TV, shortly after Washington announced an end to waivers for imports of Iranian oil.
That means South Korea, along with seven other economies that were granted temporary waivers in November, will face U.S. sanctions if they continue to import Iranian oil after May 1.
It shows that the Donald Trump administration is "very serious" about nonproliferation and missile proliferation, according to Hook. "North Korea and Iran are two leading countries in that field," he said.
The difference between them is that Iran has yet to acquire the level of sophistication North Korea has demonstrated in its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.
"Iran can never have a nuclear weapon," Hook said. "They have got to stop proliferating ballistic missiles around the Middle East. They need to stop testing ballistic missiles and doing space launch vehicles so that they can acquire an (intercontinental ballistic missile), which is what North Korea has already been test-firing."
The special representative drew a parallel between the 1994 Agreed Framework, signed by the U.S. and North Korea, and the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
In both cases, the aim was to prevent the other party from getting a nuclear weapon, but both failed to stop the regimes from pursuing their goals, Hook said.
As a result, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear accord last year. He then reimposed tough U.S. sanctions on Tehran, including the ban on Iranian oil imports.
Hook said the U.S. "very much" wants to deny Iran the ability to become a nuclear state.
"If we don't make things different than they have been in the past, we are creating the conditions where they can achieve what North Korea has already achieved," he said.
Asked if he is recognizing the North as a nuclear state, he said he is not. "I'm just saying that we know that North Korea has tested nuclear bombs and they have also done extensive ballistic missile testing."
He added that Iran has the same aspirations, which need to be curtailed.
"Think about this," he said. "The world's leading state sponsor of terrorism is Iran. We can never allow them to have a nuclear weapon."
South Korea relies heavily on Iranian condensate to produce petrochemical products, which are a leading export item, along with semiconductors.
Hook said the U.S. has been working closely with South Korea over the last year to help the Asian ally transition away from Iranian crude.
He also said there are other suppliers of condensate, including Singapore, Qatar and the U.S.
"We have a very strong and great alliance with Korea," Hook said. "We don't want them to suffer any economic harm. The purpose of this is to achieve national security objectives, which we know Korea shares."
N. Korea's reaction to Seoul's olive-branch offers litmus test for future inter-Korean ties
Seoul seeks to keep peace process alive through biz people's Kaesong trip: experts
N.K. projectile launch signals it wants more than food aid
Severe food shortages in N. Korea in spotlight after Trump's blessing for help
Moon's peace drive at a crossroads, no hype for his inauguration anniversary