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Iran, North Korea forge stronger bond under Trump's pressure

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif answers questions during a June 27, 2017, news conference at the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin.

WOLFGANG KUMM/DPA/ABACA PRESS/TNS

By BRENDAN SCOTT | Bloomberg News | Published: August 8, 2018

SINGAPORE (Tribune News Service) — Iran and North Korea are pledging to build stronger ties, highlighting the risk that President Donald Trump’s pressure campaigns may bring some U.S. 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 U.K. criticized the restoration of U.S. sanctions against Iran and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, accused North Korea of moving too slowly on its “denuclearization” promises to the president.

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 U.S., especially as illustrated by the president’s tweets. 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.

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. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo presented Ri with a letter in Singapore last week, seeking another meeting with Kim, in an effort to bolster talks.

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