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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Trump pressure forces Iran, North Korea closer 

Countries from Russia to the UK have criticised the restoration of US sanctions against Iran

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) with North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho in Tehran on August 7, 2018. AFP
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) with North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho in Tehran on August 7, 2018. AFP

Iran and North Korea are pledging to build stronger ties, highlighting the risk that President Donald Trump’s pressure campaigns may bring some US rivals closer together.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho called for expanded relations during meetings Tuesday in Tehran, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said. The report provided few details about the talks, other than to say the pair “discussed the latest regional and international developments, as well as issues of mutual interest.”

The meeting underscores the challenges facing Trump administration efforts to pressure the nations to curb their weapons programs and give up their nuclear aspirations. It came on the same day that countries from Russia to the UK criticised the restoration of US sanctions against Iran and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, accused North Korea of moving too slowly on its “denuclearisation” promises to the president.

Mr Ri’s trip – aboard an Air China Ltd plane – was the latest example of North Korea’s greater diplomatic freedom in the wake of Trump’s June 12 summit with its leader Kim Jong Un. The envoy’s overseas travel this year has included visits to China, Russia and Singapore.

North Korea and Iran are at opposite ends of up-and-down relationships with the US, especially as illustrated by the president’s tweets. President Trump last month warned Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani that he would “SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED,” if he threatened America.

President Trump, who unleashed similar rhetoric against Kim last year, has praised the North Korean leader for returning the remains of about 55 service members killed in the Korean War -- the first tangible outcome since their summit. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo presented Mr Ri with a letter in Singapore last week, seeking another meeting with President Kim, in an effort to bolster talks.

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