BEIJING (Reuters) – China wants to have closer military ties with Iran, the Chinese defence minister told the visiting head of the Iranian navy on Thursday, state media reported, reaffirming diplomatic links despite controversy over Iran’s nuclear plans.
Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan told Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari that the two armed forces have seen “good cooperation on mutual visits, personnel training and other fields in recent years”, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
“Exchanges between the two navies have been fruitful and their warships have paid successful visits to each other,” it cited Chang as saying.
“Chang … stressed China is willing to work with Iran to further pragmatic cooperation and strengthen military-to-military ties.”
Xinhua cited Sayyari as saying Iran attached great importance to its ties with China and was “ready to enhance bilateral exchanges to push forward cooperation between the two armed forces, especially in naval cooperation”.
For the first time ever, two Chinese warships docked at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port to take part in joint naval exercises in the Gulf, Iranian state media reported on Sept 20.
Naval cooperation between Iran and China is aimed at reinforcing Iran’s military capability in the Gulf, analysts say, as well as displaying China’s plan to exert greater influence and presence beyond East Asia.