North Korean foreign minister visits Iran as US sanctions take effect

Trip by Ri Yong Ho comes as both Tehran and Pyongyang face American pressure over their nuclear programs

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho on Tuesday, on the same day the US reimposed nuclear-related sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Zarif welcomed Ri and a team of officials at the foreign ministry in Tehran, but no statement was made to reporters.

Ri is on a two-day visit to Tehran, and is due to meet with President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday.

Fars news agency said the two sides discussed “bilateral relations and regional issues in the Middle East,” without giving further details.

The visit coincided with the United States reimposing sanctions on Iran after US President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal in May. Trump said the deal did not do enough to curb Iran’s nuclear development and criticized it for not addressing the country’s ballistic missile program or support for regional terror groups and militias.

President Donald J. Trump signs an EO on Iran Sanctions in the Green Room at Trump National Golf Club Monday, August 6, 2018, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The US is currently also pushing Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear capabilities after Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un agreed a vague commitment to “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” at their landmark summit in June.

A UN panel of experts has expressed concern over military collaboration between Iran and North Korea in the past.

In a 2017 report, it noted the presence of designated North Korean weapons traffickers living in Tehran and the similarity between missile designs in the two countries.

Ri was present alongside a high-level Iranian delegation at a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku, Azerbaijan, in April, according to Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency.

A North Korean delegation also attended Rouhani’s inauguration in August 2017.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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