April 30, 2013 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 962

The North Korea Crisis As Iran Sees It

April 30, 2013 | By A. Savyon and E. Zigron*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 962


North Korea's recent moves, which included declaring nuclear war on the U.S. have been generally met with support from Iranian officials. Iranian speakers emphasized the common destiny shared by the two countries, noting that both are persecuted by the West; they also expressed empathy for North Korea, saying that it, like Iran, is under pressure and sanctions to compel it to submit to the "cruel demands" of the West, especially the U.S.[1] This Western scenario of submission would never be accepted, they added.

Most Iranian spokesmen blamed the U.S. for the crisis. According to them, the American presence in the region is the cause of the North-South division of Korea, and that North Korea, which seeks to preserve its independence, has no choice but to confront the U.S.

The reactions of Iranian spokesmen reflect two main trends:

  1. At first, some in Iran warned the West that matters could deteriorate into nuclear war, and called for a peaceful resolution – the main element of which must be the international community's acceptance of a nuclear-armed North Korea and an end to the U.S. presence in the region. This is similar to the resolution that Iran seeks for its own nuclear issue.
  2. However, as the crisis evolved, some in Iran warned domestically that the West could use North Korea's nuclear threat to world peace as a pretext to step up its actions against Iran, by claiming that Iran would soon pose a similar threat.

It should be mentioned that in mid-March 2013, before the crisis escalated, Majlis National Security Council member Mohammad Reza Mohseni-Thani discussed the Iran-North Korea connection and noted that Tehran could learn from Pyongyang, saying: "America and its allies must understand that North Korea recently [escalated] its position due to the sanctions and threats, and set itself in a threatening position. It is possible that Iran too might come to this conclusion [about action it needs to take]."[2]

However, in April 2013, the website Tabnak acknowledged that the international community was not at all likely to comply with North Korea's demands and recognize it as a military nuclear power:[3] "Statements by the North Korean prime minister clarify the essence of its political aim. North Korea wants official recognition of its nuclear weapons, [but] compliance with that demand – whether by its enemies in the West or its allies in the East – is nearly impossible."[4]

Following are some Iranian reactions to the North Korea crisis, including a number of cartoons published by the Fars news agency:

The U.S. Is To Blame For The Crisis; The West Should Beware Of Nuclear War

Deputy Chief Of Staff Jazayeri: The U.S. Has Left North Korea No Option But To Confront It

Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff Masoud Jazayeri said in speeches that not only are the Americans responsible for the crisis, but are using it to increase their presence in the region. According to him, the U.S. has left North Korea no option but to confront it. Jazayeri also hinted that there would be damage to the economic stability of Japan and South Korea if they continued to support the U.S.

In an April 5, 2013 speech, Jazayeri said: "It was the American presence in Korea that caused the split between the two Koreas, and this is also the main reason for the tension in this sensitive region, past and present... The reason for the tension is American greed, and an attempt by warmongering circles in the U.S. to maximize the U.S. presence across the globe and to marginalize North Korea. Thus, North Korean officials have no option but to confront the American instigators. If war breaks out in this region, America and its allies will suffer heavy losses."[5]

On April 9, 2013, Jazayeri said: "The North Korean nation and its government – which have always been the target of the threats, bullying, and greed of America and the ruling [global] system – consider their efforts to step up their deterrence and to show their defensive power to the enemy to be their natural right. It is America's military measures in the region that caused tension in Korea. If they want peace and quiet... they must first end their presence in other parts of the world, including Asia and Korea.

"North Korea's wise conduct has prevented an increased U.S. presence... in the strategic region of East Asia. The Americans... are exploiting the new situation in an attempt to dispatch additional military equipment and forces to the region. If South Korea and Japan do not change their policy vis-à-vis America, they could suffer... from destabilization of the region and from damage to their own economic stability..."[6]

At an April 10, 2013 press conference, Jazayeri said: "America tries to use Iranophobia and Koreaphobia to justify its increased military presence in the region. America's main purpose is [to use] Koreaphobia to increase its military presence in Southeast Asia."[7]

Former Foreign Ministry Official: If North Korea Uses Nuclear Weapons, It Will Be America's Fault

Former Iranian ambassador to Mexico Mohammad Hassan Kadiri Abyaneh told on April 8, 2013 that the U.S. wants to defeat North Korea and make it relinquish its independence, but that the latter would not submit. He warned that the Americans would be the most to blame should North Korea decide to use nuclear weapons. Following are excerpts from his statements:[8]

"America is increasing pressure and sanctions on North Korea so as to cause starvation and to force it to submit to its cruel demands... But North Korea will never submit to the Americans' unreasonable demands... and will never sacrifice its independence for the U.S. In the future, its response to American bullying could surpass the latter's expectations; the U.S. nuclear arsenal might be able to destroy North Korea or the entire planet, but if North Korea decides to fight, the U.S. will undoubtedly be harmed. If North Korea uses nuclear weapons, America will bear the brunt of the blame... The international community must call on North Korea to show restraint, and demand the nuclear disarmament of America and an end to the sanctions and crimes against North Korea."

Motaalefeh Eslami Secretary: The Countdown To Nuclear War Has Begun

At the conclusion of an April 7, 2013 meeting of the Motaalefeh Eslami party, party secretary Mohammad Nabi Habibi said: "The sanctions and pressure applied by the West, [especially] by America, to North Korea are sounding the countdown to nuclear war. America will be considered an aggressor that brought part of Korean territory to the brink of a humanitarian disaster similar to those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."[9]

Iranian Spokesmen Warn Iran: The West Is Using The North Korean Nuclear Threat As A Weapon Against Iran

Kayhan Editor: The Uproar About North Korea's Nuclear Threat Is Setting The Stage For Action Against Iran

In the April 11, 2013 editorial of the daily Kayhan, editor Hossein Shariatmadari stated that claims of a North Korean nuclear threat to world peace are an attempt by the U.S. to exit the dead end it faced in the nuclear talks with Iran. He called this effort a propaganda attempt to link the North Korean threat to a future Iranian threat and to set the stage for Western action against Iran, and added that the West's claims that Iran is arming itself with nuclear weapons are baseless.

Following are excerpts from Shariatmadari's editorial.[10]

"[Considering that North Korea has] at most 10 nuclear warheads, compared to the 7,600 warheads possessed by the U.S. and the 725 installation-ready warheads possessed by its strategic allies – France, England, and Israel... is North Korea's threat of a nuclear strike against the U.S. the [real] reason for all this outrage on the part of America and its allies?! Especially in light of the fact that North Korea's latest nuclear test is only its third – the two previous tests having met with barely a diplomatic frown from the West... American, British, French, and Zionist statesmen, and Western media outlets, who relied on the so-called 'North Korean nuclear menace to the international community!' have also warned about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons! ...

"Mention of the danger posed by Iran based on North Korea's nuclear test could lead one to think that it was the Islamic Republic of Iran that had conducted a nuclear test using an explosion, for the purpose of acquiring nuclear weapons! This strengthens the possibility that the latest affair, and the West's propaganda about the risk of a nuclear attack by North Korea [was intended]... to present a false picture of Iran's efforts to produce nuclear weapons. [This] is the same false picture that has not provided [even] the tiniest indication that [Iran was striving for nuclear weapons] during the 10-year nuclear challenge [i.e. nuclear talks] and the serial and ongoing inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities by the [International Atomic Energy] Agency.

"Therefore, there is a strong possibility that after its 10-year nuclear challenge against Islamic Iran failed, America is now seeking to redirect this challenge from Almaty [Kazakhstan, where the latest talks ended in an impasse] to Pyongyang...

"In negotiations, arguments are made and technical and legal documents are presented – but in this recent game, according to the U.S., uproar and outrage may be substituted for documents and arguments!

"North Korea must be alert to this deceitful U.S. project, because the evidence reveals the possibility of deception... Iran realizes that the U.S. and its allies have reached a dead end [in the Iran-P5+1 talks], and are looking for a respectable way to extricate themselves from this humiliation.

"According to [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei, the U.S.'s only option is to recognize Islamic Iran's legal [nuclear] right. America and its allies have lost this double game, and the only way out for them is to acknowledge this."

Hashemi Rafsanjani: Iranian Jubilation Over The Korea Crisis Is Unwise; Western Exaggeration Of The North Korean Threat Is Aimed At Harming Iran

At an April 9, 2013 Expediency Council meeting, chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani warned that Iran must not fuel the media uproar in the West over the Korea crisis, calling the crisis a Western conspiracy to paint the ostensible North Korea nuclear threat as a threat world peace while the West's real target is Iran.

Following are excerpts from his statements:[11]

"Despite the unwise expressions of jubilation in some [circles] in [Iran], media statements and propaganda in the West show that the inflated [coverage of and attribution of motives to] North Korea's moves was aimed at exaggerating the nuclear threat that Iran poses to the region and to the world. This could pave the way for still harsher pressure on Iran."

Fars News Agency Publishes Cartoons Showing North Korean Threat As Concrete And As A Reaction To U.S. Activity In The Region

The following cartoons were published by the Fars news agency April 6-8, 2013.

"The reason for the widening of the divide between North and South Korea"

"North Korea's decisive response to America's sowing of disagreements"

"U.S.-North Korea war games"

"Kim Jong-Un – Obama's nightmare"

"North Korea's nuclear threat to America"

"The threat of nuclear war"

"On the brink of nuclear war"

"North Korea's nuclear energy"

* A. Savyon is Director of the Iranian Media Project; E. Zigron is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[1] Former Iranian ambassador to Mexico Mohammad Hassan Kadiri Abyaneh, April 2013.

[2] Fars (Iran), March 10, 2013.

[3] The U.S. announced that it firmly rejected North Korea's demand for recognition as a military nuclear power, saying "This demand is unrealistic and unacceptable." North Korea announced that "if this is a negotiation with the U.S., it should be a dialogue between nuclear nations, as opposed to a situation where one side forces nuclear disarmament on the other." Reuters, April 23, 2012.

[4] Tabnak (Iran), April 16, 2013.

[5] Fars (Iran), April 5, 2013.

[6] Fars (Iran), April 9, 2013.

[7] Mehr (Iran), April 10, 2013.

[8], April 8, 2013.

[9] Fars (Iran), April 7, 2013.

[10] Kayhan (Iran), April 11, 2013.

[11] Fars (Iran), April 9, 2013.

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