China, Iran deepening military ties
BEIJING – China and Iran announced this week that they’re deepening their military ties, with Tehran going so far as to claim that China now sees Iran as a “strategic partner.”
The announcement came as Hossein Dehqan, Iran’s minister of defense and armed forces logistics, prepared to conclude a four-day visit today in Beijing, where he met his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan. It also came amid a clash between the United States and China over alleged assistance by Chinese businesses to Iran’s nuclear program.
On April 29, the U.S. State Department issued a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a Chinese businessman, Li Fangwei, also known as “Karl Lee,” who was indicted in 2009 on charges of using U.S. financial institutions to help Iran sidestep U.S. sanctions.
Both authoritarian governments, China and Iran share some common interests, including standing up to U.S. influence in the Middle East and Asia. Even so, Sino-Persian relations have wavered over the years, with China helping Iran militarily at times but trying to keep a low profile.
The United States closely watches China’s relationship with Tehran, partly because of a temporary deal struck in November that would relieve Iran of about $7 billion in sanctions in return for restraining its nuclear activities. While China publicly opposes any attempt by Iran to develop nuclear weapons, it has a long history of helping Tehran develop its missile systems and nuclear reactors.