Following the end on the 18th of October of the 13-year United Nations’ embargo on Iran buying or selling weapons, the roll-out of the military component of the 25-year deal between China and Iran will begin in November, as exclusively revealed by Oil Price.com. After a series of meetings in China on the 9th and 10th of October between Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, and his China counterpart, Wang Yi, this military component may now also feature the deployment in Iran of North Korean weaponry and technology, in exchange for oil, according to sources very close to the Iranian government spoken to by OilPrice.com last week. Most notably this would include Hwasong-12 mobile ballistic missiles, with a range of 4,500 kilometres, and the development of liquid propellant rocket engines suitable for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or satellite launch vehicles (SLVs). This will all be part of a broader triangular relationship co-ordinated by Beijing and further facilitated by the imminent launch of a new digitised currency system by China.
This sort of co-ordination – between North Korea and Iran and also between North Korea, Iran, and China – is nothing new, although its resumption at such a scale and in such products is. According to a number of defence industry sources - and recorded in various ‘Jane’s Intelligence Reviews’ (JIR) - over the first five-year period from the onset of Iran’s ballistic missile program in 1987, Iran bought up to 300 Scud B missiles from North Korea. Pyongyang, though, did not just sell Iran weapons but it was also instrumental in helping Iran to build-out the infrastructure for what has become an extremely high-level ballistic missile program, beginning with the creation in Iran of a Scud B missile plant that became operational by the end of 1988. According to JIR and other defence sources, this early-stage co-operation in this area between North Korea and Iran also included Iranian personnel travelling to North Korea for training in the operation and manufacture of these missiles and the stationing of North Korean personnel in Iran during the build-out of missile plants. This model of knowledge and skills transference, of course, has been a key part of the 25-year deal between Iran and China since it was formally agreed back in 2016, including the training of up to 130 young, fast-tracked officers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) every year at various military institutions across mainland China. The simple idea of paying North Korea in oil is also far from new, having been a key method by which Iran helped to fund the development of North Korea’s more powerful Nodong series of missiles as early as the 1990s, according to Kenneth Katzman, Middle Eastern affairs specialist at the Congressional Research Service, in Washington. According to sources close to Iran’s Petroleum Ministry spoken to by OilPrice.com last week, oil shipments are the number one suggestion from North Korea to any country that has oil and wants weapons as a means of payment for any weaponry that Pyonyang has available.