On February 19, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani met with his North Korean counterpart Choe Thae-bok in Tehran and the two sides called for further strengthening ties between their countries, the Iranian parliament’s official website reports. “We have always pursued lasting relations with North Korea. In addition, we thank the North Korea delegation for attending the conference in support of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian issue is a definitely an important matter, and your participation in this conference is valuable,” Larijani told Thae-bok, the chairman of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly in the meeting, who is visiting Tehran to attend an international conference in support of the Palestinians. “Americans constantly want to pressure independent countries and they don’t want peace to be established in different regions. Therefore, the Islamic Republic’s approach is to create peace in the Middle East and the Korean peninsula. And we oppose the United States’ provocative actions in this regard,” he added.

The Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency (Iranian parliament’s official website) also quoted Thae-bok as stressing that close relations between Iran and North Korea would be instrumental in “neutralizing” Washington’s policies against the two countries.

Comment: Since President Donald Trump took office last month, it is at least the second meeting between Iranian lawmakers and North Korean officials, in which the two sides have called for boosting bilateral ties and “resisting” the United States.

On January 30, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the Chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told North Korea’s Ambassador to Tehran Kang Sam Hyon that “Iran and North Korea are at a united front against interferences and bullying by America and its allies and they resist different kinds of pressures and sanctions imposed by the West on both countries.”  In the meeting, Boroujerdi, who is also the head of the parliamentary friendship group of Iran and North Korea, urged that officials of the two countries, including lawmakers, should meet more often to discuss issues of mutual concern and strengthen ties. The Korean diplomat, according to the Iranian media, said that expanding ties with Tehran in the political, economic and defense arenas was among Pyongyang’s top priorities, and added: “America is the source of instability and insecurity in different parts of the world, and North Korea backs Iran’s positions to oppose America’s bullying and imperialistic interferences.”

Cooperation between Tehran and Pyongyang, especially in the military field, has been a matter of grave concern for Washington and its allies for a long time. A Congressional Research Service report last year noted that Iran “has developed a close working relationship with North Korea on many ballistic missile programs.” Last week, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan revealed that Iran imported supplies for the country’s shipping industry from North Korea.

The news also comes at a time when U.S. officials are increasingly worried about Iranian and North Korean ballistic missile programs. Shortly after Donald Trump took the oath of office, the White House website released a policy statement – titled “Making Our Military Strong Again” – which stated that the administration will “develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea.” In a U.S. Congressional hearing titled “Iran on Notice” on February 16, American lawmakers also raised the issue of cooperation between North Korean and Iranian militaries.