- The Washington Times
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Iran’s president warned North Korea’s top diplomat Wednesday to be wary of embracing a denuclearization deal with Washington, arguing the Trump administration’s pullout of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal shows the U.S. can’t be trusted to keep its word.

“The U.S. government’s behavior in these years [has] been such that today America is known in the world as an unreliable and untrustworthy country that does not honor any of its commitments,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during a meeting in Tehran with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho.

State-controlled media in Iran reported that Mr. Rouhani also urged Mr. Ri, who was on a special visit to the Iranian capital, to forge closer ties with Tehran so the two can “stand together” and promote “cooperation in international circles.”

Mr. Ri appeared to agree, according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, suggesting that the North Korean foreign minister, who has been central to delicate talks with U.S. officials in recent months, may be a less willing partner than the Trump administration had hoped.

Wednesday’s development came amid growing unease in Washington over the lack of progress being made by Pyongyang toward abandoning its nuclear weapons, despite North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s broad promise during a summit with President Trump to pursue the goal of denuclearization.

National Security Advisor John R. Bolton told PBS News on Monday that the North Koreans have “not taken effective steps” toward the goal since the Trump-Kim summit on June 12 in Singapore.

Mr. Bolton said the administration is now working on a plan to send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a fourth visit to Pyongyang to raise the issue with Mr. Kim.

It remains to be seen how the North Korean leader will respond. A key state-controlled newspaper in Pyongyang ran an editorial this week criticizing Washington’s assertion that sanctions against North Korea can be lifted only after it has fully abandoned its nuclear programs.

“There have been outrageous arguments coming out of the U.S. State Department that it won’t ease sanctions until a denuclearization is completed, and reinforcing sanctions is a way to raise its negotiating power,” said the editorial in the Rodong Sinmun, a ruling Workers’ Party mouthpiece, according to Reuters.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, has defended its recent withdrawal of the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran — a deal Washington and other word powers reached with Tehran in 2015, giving major sanctions relief to the Iranians in exchange for limits to and inspections of their nuclear activities.

President Trump and his advisors argue the deal was a disaster because it failed to address support that Iran, which Washington lists as a state sponsor of terrorism, gives to proxy militias meddling in the affairs of other nations around the Middle East.

The White House began reimposing pre-nuclear deal sanctions against Iran Monday, but administration officials have also said they would be willing to renegotiation with Tehran if it ends its support for proxies and halts its ongoing ballistic missile programs.

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