The Iranian military said it is expanding its military partnership with China after Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe visited the country this week.
On Wednesday, Iran’s state-run Fars News agency reported Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said “Relations between the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China have been developing in recent years” and would continue to expand.
China and Iran have already held joint military exercises together in the past. Iran joined Russia and China in joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman in December of 2019. Russia, China and Iran again held joint naval drills in January of this year. Following his meeting with Wei, Bagheri said the two countries had now agreed to develop that military cooperation further.
“In today’s meeting with the Chinese Minister of Defense, it was agreed to develop bilateral cooperation in the field of holding exercises, exchange of experiences, training issues and other common fields between the armed forces of the two countries so that we can provide better security for the regions under our control,” Bagheri said.
Fars News shared a photo of Wei and Bagheri shaking hands on Wednesday.
The Chinese side has provided few details about Wei’s visit to Iran. During a Wednesday press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin referred questions about Wei’s visit to the Chinese Ministry of Defense. The Chinese defense ministry has yet to provide a statement on the visit.
Bagheri’s comments about building on Iran’s military relationship with China come as President Joe Biden’s administration is still negotiating with Iran for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. One reported sticking point in the negotiations has been Iran’s calls for the U.S. to first remove its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Iran has rejected U.S. calls for it to abandon its plans for revenge against the U.S. for the January 2020 U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq. Iran has insisted it will not abandon its calls for revenge for Soleimani even if the U.S. agrees to lift sanctions against Iran in return.
Iran also admitted in March to launching missiles at a U.S. consulate in Erbil, Iraq. The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) — the official press agency of the Iranian government — reported that the IRGC had confirmed launching precision-guided missiles.