Chinese People's Liberation Army
Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy honor guard stand at attention during a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 26, 2007. China is apparently seeking closer military ties with Iran. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

China is looking to deepen its military ties with Iran, a senior Chinese official reportedly said Thursday after meeting with Iran’s defense minister in Tehran. Adm. Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told Iran’s defense minister Hoseein Deghan that developing stronger relations with Iran was atop the agenda, according to Reuters.

“The aim of this delegation’s visit is to further promote friendship, deepen cooperation and exchange views with Iran on bilateral military ties and issues of mutual concern,” Sun was quoted as saying in a statement from China’s Defense Ministry obtained by Reuters. The admiral added that his visit to Iran will “promote the preservation of international and regional peace and stability.”

China, the world’s second-largest economy, and Iran have enjoyed close diplomatic, economic and trade relations. Last year, two Chinese warships docked at Iran’s principle Bandar Abbas port to take part in joint naval exercises in the Gulf for the first time in history, the New York Times reported. The joint training lasted for four days and focused on rescue missions, Iranian news media reported at the time. An Iranian admiral was also given a tour of a Chinese submarine and warships.

Beijing actively encouraged both Washington and Tehran to reach an agreement on Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which the West has long suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear weapon. A multilateral deal was reached in July and sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations will be lifted in return for Iran’s consent to long-term restrictions on the nuclear program.

The agreement allowed China and Iran to ramp up their oil trade. Iran’s largest oil client imported 2.76 million tons or 671,800 barrels of crude per day in June, which was up 29.6 percent from May and 26.5 percent a year ago, according to Reuters.