By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) – Seoul celebrated Iran’s support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday, in a further attempt to dissuade Pyongyang from defying United Nations resolutions with another nuclear test.
A day earlier in Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had expressed implicit concern about North Korea.
“Our basic position is that nuclear weapons should be removed from the Korean Peninsula,” Rouhani said alongside visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a joint briefing — the South’s nuke-free policy is strictly enforced under its alliance with the United States.
South Korea’s first presidential summit with Iran for more than half a century came as the two sides have been pushing to boost economic cooperation following the lifting of sanctions in line with Tehran’s own nuclear concessions last year.
“We believe the message that Iran, a traditional partner of North Korea, sent at a leadership level probably communicated a strong warning to the North,” a foreign ministry spokesperson told reporters back in South Korea.
“The North should… take a path toward denuclearization and development for the livelihoods of its own people based on the Iranian case,” local news agency Yonhap quoted Cho June-hyuck as saying.
The South’s defense ministry reiterated Tuesday its evaluation that North Korea is likely to carry out another nuclear test around the time of its first party congress in nearly 40 years.
Seoul believes that Pyongyang could mark this week’s gathering with more ballistic missile tests too.
Such provocations — including a fourth ever nuclear test by the North in January — already drew strengthened UN sanctions earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Yonhap also cited government sources claiming that military and maritime movements on- and off-shore north of the border hinted at imminent provocations.