Israeli security experts urged Korea to join oil sanctions against Iran on a visit to Seoul, calling the country part of an axis of "bad guys" that they said also includes China, Russia and North Korea.
The U.S. this week pressed Korea to adopt tough sanctions on Iranian oil imports, in a bid to stem the Islamic nation's nuclear development, which Washington says aims to produce nuclear weapons.
Three academics from Israel's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies told media at a meeting Thursday at the Israeli Embassy in Seoul that it was "very much in South Korea's interest" to join U.S. sanctions against Iran to limit the Islamic state's economic power to pursue nuclear programs.
"The only way to avoid military action against Iran is to adopt harsher sanctions," said Eytan Gilboa, professor at the BE-SA Middle Eastern security research center, which does not necessarily represent the views of the Israeli government.
"We have to damage their major sources of income. We have to damage the Iranian oil industry.
"The U.S. is asking other economies to reduce oil imports from Iran. This should not be a problem (for Korea) because other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are ready to step up and supply oil."
BE-SA Center director Efraim Inbar added: "South Korea has an interest in reducing the power of Iran more than any other country as Korea is a neighbor of North Korea. You have a decided interest in joining these sanctions in order for reducing the threat of your enemy."
The professors asserted that that North Korea could gain technological knowhow from Iran if the Islamic state's nuclear weapons capabilities grow.
And Inbar said that Israel "will not be mourning" the recent death of an Iranian scientist killed in a car bomb attack.
Nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, who worked at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was killed in a car explosion in north Tehran on Jan. 11. Iran has blamed the U.S. and Israel for the assassination of several nuclear scientists in recent years, but both countries have denied involvement. However, Gilboa told Korean journalists that similar covert attacks had been used against rogue states in the past as alternatives to military strikes.
"I think that incidents like these could change (Iran's) policies," he said.
"Such covert operations should oppose the need for a military strike. These are not innocent scientists, they are very key to Iran's nuclear weapons program. This is not the first time trying to use such covert operations to stop such persons in radical countries."
The International Atomic Energy Agency voiced suspicions about nuclear weapons development in a 2011 report on Iran's nuclear program. But Iranian ambassador to Korea Ahmad Masumifar called the western sanctions that followed "illegitimate" and stressed the peaceful goals of his country's nuclear program. The Hankyoreh newspaper quoted Masumifar as saying: "Even in this report written by nuclear experts and a observer group, there was no proof of Iranian nuclear weapons development." Masumifar told Korean journalists that Seoul must decide in the county's interests regarding sanctions on Iran, adding that around 2,000 South Korean companies are currently in economic partnership with Iran.
U.S. President Barack Obama last month signed a bill imposing penalties on financial institutions dealing with Iran's central bank.