One or more Iranians witnessed North Korea’s recent missile tests, deepening U.S. concerns about growing ties between two countries with troubling nuclear capabilities, a top U.S. official said on Thursday.
Asked at a U.S. Senate hearing about reports that Iranians witnessed the July 4 tests, Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator with Pyongyang, replied: “Yes, that is my understanding” and it is “absolutely correct” that the relationship is worrisome.
Hill’s comments are believed to be the first public U.S. confirmation that Iranian representatives observed the seven tests, which involved one launch of a long-range ballistic missile, which failed soon after being fired, and six tests of short and medium-range missiles. Hill said the six succeeded in hitting their target range.
But U.S. officials have long said that Iran and North Korea have been collaborating and have expressed serious concerns that cash-strapped Pyongyang was keen to sell missiles and possibly also nuclear material. “Our understanding is that North Korea has had a number of commercial relations in the Middle East with respect to missiles,” Hill said.
North Korea-Iran ties are of even more concern now as the militant Islamic group Hizbollah, which is backed by Iran, is trading rocket fire with Israel, Hill and Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia said during the hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.