Aug 15, 2023, 2:37pm EDT

China wants to deepen defense ties with Iran and Belarus

Russian Defence Ministry/Handout

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Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu said Tuesday that Beijing was committed to deepening its “defense cooperation” with Iran and Belarus — both Russian allies who are playing critical roles in aiding the Kremlin’s efforts in Ukraine.

The remarks were made during the Moscow Conference on International Security, which took place shortly after Semafor reported that Tehran is preparing to build a drone-production facility in Belarus — a move that could significantly enhance Russia’s ability to attack Ukraine.

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China is aggressively seeking to expand its military partnerships globally to compete against the U.S., and much of this focus is on Asia, Eurasia, and the far Pacific.

The China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which Iran recently became a member of, is one of Beijing’s primary vehicles to extend its reach. In his speech, Li described Belarus as a “soon-to-be member” of the bloc.

“We are committed to promoting peace talks and a great international consensus to solve differences,” Li said, “whether it is the Afghan issue, the Syrian issue...the Ukraine crisis, or the Iranian nuclear issue.”

Beijing’s defense chief also took the opportunity to assert that Taiwan was regarded as “China’s territory,” and that any attempt by foreign actors to use the island to “control China” would fail.