Iranian President Slams N.Korean Nuke Program

      May 03, 2016 09:53

      Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday distanced his country from North Korea and its nuclear program.

      "We want changes on the Korean Peninsula and we are, in principle, opposed to any nuclear development,” Rouhani told reporters in Tehran. "Our basic principle is that there should be no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula or in the Middle East."

      Rouhani did not name North Korea or Israel, but it was clear he had them in mind.

      He was speaking in a press conference with President Park Geun-hye, who arrived earlier in the day as the first Korean president to set foot in the country and the first female leader of a non-Muslim nation to visit Tehran.

      Park and Rouhani inspected an honor guard before heading off to their summit. Park wore a rousari, which is a headscarf or hijab. Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Jung Youn-kuk said it was "a sign of respect for the country's traditions."

      President Park Geun-hye (left) and her Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani smile during a press conference in Tehran, Iran on Monday. /Yonhap

      Iran has long had a cooperative relationship with North Korea, which allegedly helped Iran develop its own nuclear program until Tehran gave it up under an international deal which led to the lifting of sanctions last year.

      The remarks signal further isolation for Pyongyang in the international community.

      Instead South Korea is hoping to get closer to Iran and reap the benefits of a vast resurgent market. Park is accompanied by an entourage of hundreds of business leaders, the biggest of any foreign state visit.

      Park and Rouhani agreed to open direct flights between the two countries, expand economic cooperation and oppose North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

      Korean companies signed infrastructure business deals worth US$37.1 billion with the Iranian government.

      An Chong-bum, the senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, said, "These are projects that are almost certain to be won by Korean companies."

      An said the amount would rise to $45.6 billion if deals that are still under negotiation are included.

      The two governments also signed 66 memorandums of understanding and forged a maritime pact that guarantees them free access to each other's ports in order to boost bilateral trade, which dropped from $17.4 billion in 2011 to $6.1 billion last year while the sanctions were still in place.

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