China wants to strengthen military ties with Iran, a senior Chinese admiral said Thursday, three months after Tehran sealed a deal with world powers over its nuclear programme.
Sun Jianguo made the remarks to Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan during a visit to Tehran, China's defence ministry said in statement, noting that he hoped to continue pushing forward military relations between the two countries.
Sun's visit was to "enhance friendship, deepen cooperation and exchange views on issues of mutual interest to the two militaries", the Chinese ministry said.
Dehghan also hoped to strengthen "strategic cooperation between both countries," according to an Iranian defence ministry statement.
"Developing military relations between both countries will reinforce stability and security on either ends of the Asian continent," he said.
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China is Iran's largest petroleum buyer, and the United States threatened to punish it for its purchases as Tehran was locked in a standoff with the international community over its nuclear programme, amid fears it could develop atomic weapons.
Beijing contributed to brokering a July deal that will lift crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.
"Along with powerful regional coalitions, the influence of the United States and the crises it provokes must be countered," Iran's defence minister added, referring to the "US interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq... which strengthened terrorist groups."
He also hailed Russia's intervention in Syria, saying he "hoped Russia's positive actions would result in substantial changes in the fight against terrorism".
Iran's navy chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari called for Tehran and Beijing to cooperate to protect shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, Iranian broadcaster Press TV reported.
The Chinese and Iranian navies have exchanged port calls at least twice since 2013 and the countries have conducted joint anti-piracy and search-and-rescue exercises.
The countries, Press TV said, also discussed intelligence sharing and counter-terror cooperation, an increasing concern for China as it faces unrest among its Uighur Muslim population.