MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) – China wants to strengthen its military ties with Iran, the nation’s Defense Minister said today, confirming Beijing’s commitment to expand diplomatic and political connections with Tehran despite concerns over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
The Defense Minister of the People’s Republic of China Chang Wanquan said that the two nations’ militaries have practiced "good cooperation on mutual visits, personnel training, and other fields in recent years" during a meeting with Iranian Rear Admiral Habobilloah Sayyari, as reported by Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty.
"Exchanges between the two navies have been fruitful and their warships have paid successful visits to each other", Mr. Chang added as quoted by Reuters. China’s minister went on to say that his country is willing to cooperate with Iran and further expand the already existing ties between the two militaries.
Sayyari, on his part, noted that links with China are of high importance to the Islamic Republic and that Tehran is "ready to enhance bilateral exchanges to push forward cooperation between the two armed forces, especially in naval cooperation", as quoted by Xinhua.
One of the largest venture between the two countries is Beijing’s enhanced presence in the Persian Gulf. Two Chinese warships arrived in Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas on 20 September to participate in naval maneuvers. Experts have suggested in the Globe and Mail that this is the way for Beijing to show its intentions to extend its influence and presence outside the Far East and Southeast Asia.
“The (port) call reflects China’s military-to-military relationship with Iran,” said Christian Le Mière, a naval expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies as quoted by the Globe and Mail. “It is the most explicit sign of Beijing’s acknowledgment of this relationship, which has remained relatively covert until now”.
Sayyari also expressed confidence in the Chinese-Iranian joint effort to fight sea piracy.
China is Iran’s top oil consumer with imports averaging 630,000 bpd in the first half of 2014. This is 57.2% on total amount of oil produced in the Islamic Republic, according to data provided by the US Energy Information Administration. Iranian gas makes up 10% of the total share of the Chinese.
Beijing has also urged to find solution to the Iran nuclear program by November this year and called for the international sanctions against the Islamic Republic to be lifted, Radio Free Europe reports.