North Korean economic delegation returns from Iran amid suspected military ties

International |  IANS  | Published :

Seoul, May 3 (IANS) A North Korean economic delegation has returned home from Iran, Pyongyang's state media said Friday, ending a rare trip that raised suspicions of possible weapons cooperation between the two nations.

The delegation, headed by External Economic Relations Minister Yun Jong-ho, arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday after visiting Iran, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a one-sentence dispatch.

The latest dispatch marked the first state media report on the visit since an April 24 dispatch announcing the delegation's departure, Yonhap news agency reported.

It is rare for a ranking North Korean official to visit Iran. The last such visit took place in 2019 when Pak Chol-min, then North Korean vice chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, visited Iran to discuss cooperation.

Having established diplomatic ties in 1973, Pyongyang and Tehran are known to have close ties while under international sanctions for their weapons programs. The countries have been suspected of exchanging ballistic missile parts and technology, especially during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

The recent trip raised speculation that along with economic cooperation, North Korea may seek to deepen military ties with Iran amid Russia's war with Ukraine. Pyongyang and Tehran are known to be key providers of weapons to Moscow to support the war.

The Iranian foreign ministry has dismissed such speculation as "biased," saying the North Korean delegation attended a trade show and held talks with officials from the government and private sector.

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