Top envoy to visit Iran for the first time in 14 years

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Top envoy to visit Iran for the first time in 14 years

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se will visit Tehran on Saturday, the first visit to Iran for a top South Korean diplomat in 14 years, and is expected to urge North Korea to denuclearize following the breakthrough Iranian nuclear deal earlier this year.

Yun is set to hold a bilateral summit with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and pay a visit to President Hassan Rouhani, according to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

Yun is expected to discuss business opportunities and various bilateral and regional issues with special focus on the implementation of the historic nuclear deal struck on July 14 between Iran and six countries - the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany.

Seoul lauded the agreement to rein in Iran from producing nuclear weapons in exchange for Washington, the European Union and the United Nations lifting stifling economic sanctions.

“After the Iranian nuclear deal was signed in July,” said Sun Nahm-kook, a deputy spokesman of the Foreign Ministry in a briefing, “the greatest challenge for the international community on the issue of nonproliferation has become the North Korean nuclear problem.”

The Foreign Ministry said that through the summits between President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping in September in Beijing and between the Korean leader and her U.S counterpart President Barack Obama in October, Seoul bolstered awareness of the need for North Korean denuclearization.

Yun last met with Foreign Minister Zarif, who was Iran’s top negotiator for the nuclear deal, in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The last South Korean top foreign envoy to visit Iran was Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo in August 2001.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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