Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with Iranian state media on Sunday that he will travel to North Korea in the near future. He said the date of his trip would be announced “soon.”
Zarif did not detail the agenda for his trip, but South Korea’s Yonhap news agency noted North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Iran last year.
“North Korea and Iran have been suspected of exchanging missile parts and technology, especially during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. In 2006, Iran’s military commander publicly acknowledged that his country obtained Scud-B and Scud-C missiles from North Korea during the war, but said Tehran no longer needs foreign assistance,” Yonhap noted.
Zarif might also be interested in discussing sanctions, and how to evade them, with the North Koreans since both Tehran and Pyongyang are currently under sanctions by the United States. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday warned that Iranians could experience 50 percent inflation and a 6 percent contraction in their economy over the coming year due to sanctions.
Zarif on Sunday accused the U.S. of attempting to “bring Iran to its knees” with sanctions and accused a “B Team” of Iran hawks – including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Saudis, and National Security Advisor John Bolton – of pushing U.S. President Donald Trump into “a confrontation he doesn’t want” through measures such as ratcheting up sanctions and designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.
Bolton, appearing on the same episode of Fox News Sunday that hosted Zarif, called the Iranian foreign minister’s accusations “completely ridiculous” and an “effort to sow disinformation.”
“The Iranian people deserve a better government,” he said, adding that U.S. policy is not intended to force regime change, but rather improve Iran’s behavior.
Zarif also popped up on CBS News’ Face the Nation to push an Iranian proposal for a prisoner exchange with the United States. Asked why Iran does not release some of the Americans it is holding as a show of its “seriousness,” Zarif insisted Iran has nothing to prove.
“We’re not supposed to show seriousness because we have shown our seriousness by implementing the nuclear deal. It’s the United States that needs to prove that it’s serious,” he said, callously dismissing the fact that one of the Americans held prisoner by Tehran is 80 years old and in poor health.
“We’ve shown that when we say something, we abide by it. The United States has shown that when we say – it – they say something they will- they will then decide whether they want to abide by it or not,” he said.
Oil prices appeared to be holding steady on Monday after the United States announced the end of sanctions waivers for several of Iran’s largest oil customers. Analysts hostile to the Trump administration’s sanctions policy had argued oil prices would skyrocket as Iranian products were pulled off the market. President Trump gave assurances he was working with friendly oil-producing nations and the booming U.S. energy market to make up for any shortfall.