Iran–North Korea relations
Iran–North Korea relations (Korean: 이란-조선민주주의인민공화국 관계; Persian: روابط ایران و کرهی شمالی) are described as being positive by official news agencies of the two countries. Diplomatic relations picked up following the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the establishment of an Islamic Republic. Iran and North Korea pledge cooperation in educational, scientific, and cultural spheres. Some media reports claim this cooperation extends to nuclear cooperation, though official U.S. government publications and academic studies have disputed this. The United States has been greatly concerned by North Korea's arms deals with Iran, which started during the 1980s with North Korea acting as a third party in arms deals between the Communist bloc and Iran, as well as selling domestically produced weapons to Iran, and North Korea continues selling missile to Iran. North Korea and Iran are the remaining two members of George W. Bush's "Axis of evil", which has led to many of the concerns regarding Iran–North Korea relations.
The Iranian–North Korean partnership did undergo occasional tension, however. Despite the two countries' shared antagonism to U.S. foreign policies, the specific national interests of the DPRK and the Islamic Republic of Iran were often considerably different from each other. For instance, North Korea, though it provided Iran with military assistance during the Iran–Iraq War (an act that induced Baghdad to break diplomatic relations with Pyongyang), made repeated attempts to normalize its relations with the Iraqi government. In 1982, the North Korean authorities secretly invited an Iraqi delegation to Pyongyang, but the Iraqi government sent only an unofficial representative. The talks failed, but the attempt revealed that North Korea was not ideologically committed to Iran’s crusade against Saddam Hussein. The Iranian leaders, on their part, decided to maintain diplomatic relations with both North and South Korea, no matter whether the DPRK liked it or not. During the recent inter-Korean security crises (like the ROKS Cheonan sinking and the Bombardment of Yeonpyeong), Iranian news agencies usually quoted the statements of the Korean Central News Agency in parallel with the statements made by Western and South Korean politicians, without showing any detectable preference for either side. Nor were the two states in full concord in adopting a position toward the various manifestations of international terrorism. On the one hand, both Iran and the DPRK provided military assistance to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and they actively sided with the regime of Bashar al-Assad against the Syrian wing of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant during the Syrian Civil War. On the other hand, North Korea and Iran held substantially different views about the conflicts in which the Taliban, the Boko Haram, and the Iraqi wing of ISIL were involved. While the DPRK stressed that U.S. efforts to suppress these organizations constituted interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Iraq, the Iranian leaders, who regarded Sunni Salafi extremism as a direct threat to their own interests, repeatedly accused America of not striving hard enough to eliminate these groups or even seeking to reach an agreement with them.
The United States of America designates both nations as State Sponsors of Terrorism, and they reciprocate this shared enmity.
List of North Korean ambassadors to Iran
- Kim Jong-nam (2000–2004)
- Kim Chang-ryong (2004–2010)
- Jo In-chol (2010–2014)
- Kang Sam-hyon (2014–)
List of Iranian ambassadors to North Korea
- Aliasghar Nahavandian
- Mohammad Ganjidoost (–2001)
- Hassan Taherian
- Jalaleddin Namini Mianji
- Morteza Moradian (2008–2012)
- Mansour Chavoshi (2012–2016)
- Seyed Mohsen Emadi (2017–)
- Ri Won Il, chairman of the DPRK-Iran Friendship Association
- Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpei, chairman of the Iran-Korea Parliamentary Friendship Group
Since the 1980s North Korea has become known as a reliable supplier of arms to other countries including Iran. Weapons sales between North Korea and Iran increased significantly during the Iran-Iraq war. This weapons sale relationship has expanded into further military cooperation including in the development of and exchange of nuclear technology. This relationship has also involved Syria.
During the Persian Gulf War North Korea is said to have supplied Iran with a range of arms including artillery, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars, ammunition, tanks, small arms, naval mines and anti-tank and surface-to-air missile systems. In December 2009, in contravention of an arms embargo imposed on North Korea, a shipment of North Korean arms, said to be headed for Iran, according to the Congressional Research Service, was intercepted in Thailand. These weapons included rocket launchers and surface-to-air missile parts.
In addition to weapons, North Korea and Iran have an active exchange of military expertise particularly in relation to special operations and underground facilities. North Korea is thought to have trained Iranian operators in these advanced infiltration techniques.
McEachern, Patrick and Jaclyn O'Brien McEachern. North Korea, Iran and the Challenge to International Order (Routledge, 2017). https://www.routledge.com/North-Korea-Iran-and-the-Challenge-to-International-Order-A-Comparative/McEachern-McEachern/p/book/9781138295124
Fitzpatrick, Mark. Iran and North Korea: The Proliferation Nexus. Survival, Vol. 48, No. 1 (2006), pp. 61–80.
Levkowitz, Alon. Iran and North Korea Military Cooperation: A Partnership within the 'Axis of Evil'. Iran-Pulse 10 (2007), pp. 1–3: https://web.archive.org/web/20150107132716/http://humanities.tau.ac.il/iranian/en/previous-reviews/10-iran-pulse-en/117-10 .
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