Tehran and Pyongyang are in talks about possible exports of Iranian oil to North Korea, Iran’s oil ministry said on Saturday.
South Korea has downplayed the North’s stepped-up war rhetoric, saying its nuclear neighbor is not ready for an all-out war with the US-backed South.
— China’s special envoy on North Korea, Wu Dawei, will visit Washington early next week to conduct talks with American officials, the Foreign Ministry said Friday.
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The visit was announced after Secretary of State John Kerry said in Beijing last week that China had a vital role to play in helping rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons.
“To wage an all-out war, they need huge amount of military supplies as well as military force and armament to carry on,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said at a news briefing on Friday.
Regarding various aspects, “they will surely be defeated if they conduct an all-out war against the combined military forces of the United States and South Korea,” he stated.
Meanwhile, top South Korean officials have met with Japanese and Chinese ambassadors to discuss ways of restoring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
Prior to this, the North had demanded an immediate halt to the US-South Korean military drills in the region and the withdrawal of UN sanctions against the country, demands dismissed by both Seoul and Washington.
The refusal prompted Pyongyang to give South Korea an “ultimatum” to end its hostile policies and warned that North Korea would not give any advance notice before attacking the South.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula heightened last month after the US deployed its nuclear-capable B-52s and B-2 stealth bombers to the region as part of its joint war game with the South.
Pyongyang stepped up its war rhetoric in response to the “provocative” move, and threatened to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the US and its regional allies.
North Korea has also said its military should be prepared to attack “all US military bases in the Asia-Pacific region, including the US mainland, Hawaii, and Guam,” in addition to South Korea.
On April 12, South Korea raised doubts over its neighbor’s military nuclear capability, saying it was unlikely that North Korea had managed to make a small, light warhead that could be mounted on a missile.
“We have had, and continue to have, negotiations with the North Koreans who have requested to buy Iranian oil. We are discussing the procedure and we don’t have any problem selling them oil,” Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi told a briefing at an International oil and gas exhibition in Tehran.
The minister admitted that Iran was feeling the strain of sanctions imposed on the country by foreign governments, but said it would not get in the way of the transportation of its oil to “any country, in any part of the world,” AP cites.
A delegation from North Korea is among the participants of the expo in the Iranian capital. A Tehran-Pyongyang oil deal would further develop ties increase between the two states – which are both at odds with the US and the West over their respective nuclear programs and have both been sanctioned over the issue.
In September, Iran and North Korea signed an agreement to collaborate in the fields of science and technology. After nearly a decade of US efforts to isolate the two states internationally, it seems they might have actually pushed them closer together. Previously, Iranian and North Korean officials described their countries as being in “one trench” in the fight against the West, while Western powers accused them of being close partners in nuclear and missile technologies.
Last year, to put even more pressure on Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, the EU and the US introduced sanctions, additional to the UN Security Council’s, including an oil embargo and financial restrictions.
According to US Energy Information Administration, in 2012 Iran saw “unprecedented drops in its oil exports” because of the sanctions.
However, Tehran boasts that despite economic sanctions, Iran overhauled its oil industry by developing its shipping industry and expanding its oil market.
“If Europeans do not purchase our oil, we have also imposed sanctions on them. We have other customers today and more than 60 countries today, in fact, are purchasing our petrochemical and oil products and derivatives,” Qasemi said in an interview with Iranian broadcaster Press TV earlier in the week.