Will Iran and North Korea Team Up Against US Sanctions?

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North Korean Foreign Minister Lee Yonkho’s visit to Iran will strengthen cooperation between the two countries in opposition to US economic sanctions, South Korean experts have been saying.

During today’s meeting between the ministers, on the symbolic day of the resumption of Trump’s anti-Iran sanctions, a plan for even stronger cooperation could be reached, which will result in the supply of Iranian oil to North Korea.

“The embargo on the import of Iranian oil, of which South Korea is also a member, was not an initiative of the United Nations, but of the United States and the European Union. Also the economic sanctions, with the help of the United States, EU, South Korea and other allied countries, to reject the import of Iranian oil, gave China considerable preferences. Left without supply, Iran started selling oil to China for a very low price,” expert in the Middle East and senior researcher at the Asian Institute of Political Studies in Seoul, Jang Ji-Hyang, said.

In his view, this cheap oil could also cross China into North Korea, which will give the DPRK an opportunity to alleviate the impact of economic sanctions.

“In a situation where the United States continues to pressure both Iran and North Korea to denuclearise them, these countries will only increase their cooperation. However, North Korea and Iran, in contrast to other countries, do not reveal their potential for cooperation through open and official channels, so everything will be limited to a symbolic demonstration of friendly relations,” claimed Ji-Hyang.

He said: “North Korea will now refrain from gestures that speak of active cooperation as this may have a negative impact on its relations with the United States.”

However, as the expert observes, Iran and North Korea are linked by a long history of secret economic and military cooperation. A typical example of such an exchange is Iran’s payment of North Korean arms supplies to Yemeni resistance fighters as well as the sale of nuclear technology and missiles to Iran. Therefore, after US sanctions, we can not exclude similar agreements on oil.

At the same time, the expert believes that Iran may not need to resort to such secret transactions, because the US will be the first to initiate the dialogue and as a result, the return to full embargo will be avoided.

According to South Korean experts, it will be difficult for Trump to maintain simultaneous pressure on two fronts, so he will have to give up North Korea in favor of the more promising Middle East.

Given that the Republican president will have to achieve impressive results in the race for the mid-term elections in the US, which will take place in November, this will be easier on the Iranian route: because the lifting of Iran’s sanctions would likely be supported by Democrats, while sanctions on North Korea would not be.

In addition, Tehran has already demonstrated its ability to negotiate, while Pyongyang will have to go through the process of approvals and concessions. If talks on a new nuclear deal are stalled, oil cooperation between Iran and North Korea is likely to be used by the Republican administration to strengthen their positions both within the United States and in international negotiations on denuclearization.

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