EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Iran and North Korea are faced with similar challenges posed by the US, particularly since the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jung-un and President Trump. The recent visit of the North Korean foreign minister to Tehran might presage an attempt to covertly retain and transfer cardinal North Korean nuclear and ballistic assets to Iran.
Not long after the US reimposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, arrived in Tehran. The visit took place in the midst of faltering talks between Pyongyang and Washington over fulfilling the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. Ri traveled to Tehran after attending a security forum in Singapore where he and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sparred over an agreement made at June’s landmark summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un.
On his visit to Tehran, Ri met first with Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, who said the two countries “expressed satisfaction with existing bilateral relations and called for further expansion of ties.” He added, vaguely, that they had “discussed the latest regional and international developments, as well as issues of mutual interest.” Ri then met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and briefed him on the ongoing talks between the DPRK and the US. He was quoted as saying that his country’s strategic policy advocates a widening of ties with Iran and a confrontation of unilateralism. Ri described the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran as a contravention of international regulations.