WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- "The Korean Peninsula's stability is crucial for maintaining regional peace and security," Mongolia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized Wednesday at a forum examining Mongolia's role in Korean diplomacy co-hosted by the Global Peace Foundation and CSIS in Washington, D.C.
Mongolia has "a very significant and a much under appreciated role" to play in diplomatic relations with both North and South Korea, observed Michael Marshall, GPF's director of research and publications.
Indeed, the Mongolian government admits it was only in the past 14 years that it "began to recognize its strategic potential in close relations with the DPRK," said Tsedendamba Batbayar, head of the Foreign Ministry's department of policy planning and policy analysis.
The Mongolian government has since launched the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asia Security in 2013 and pledged "to do whatever is in our capacity to support the early resumption of the Six-Party Talks" (involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States) in order to strengthen diplomatic relations and overcome issues through dialogue. Bilateral and multilateral dialogue should be viewed as complimentary, the officials noted.
One of Mongolia's stated foreign policy priorities is to develop "friendly bilateral relations with all the countries in the region" and in doing so, "to strengthen stability and to develop security cooperation in Northeast Asia."
Dialogue, Mongolian Ambassador to the United States Bulgaa Altangerel emphasized in his remarks, is the key to peace and development.
Although Mongolia prides itself in its "friendly relations" with North Korea, that relationship has not prevented Mongolia from vocally opposing Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
At a time when many of the world's democracies are at odds with the totalitarian North Korean state, Mongolia has a unique and promising role to play, and it is making that possibility known.
Batbayar told UPI on the eve of the forum that Mongolia strives to "be an honest broker" on the international scene and hopes that it can "open up new channels for dialogue" with North Korea.
Both Mongolia and the Korean Peninsula, former U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Mark C. Minton observed at the forum, are caught between powerful countries with whom good relations are in their interest, "even ones from whom they are feeling tremendous pressure." And at the same time, Mongolia and the Koreas "also have a very strong interest in having as much strategic leverage and breathing room as they can possibly design."
This, said Minton, explains their willingness to engage in diplomatic outreach. "They want to have other partners. They want some traction in regional affairs and in global affairs that allows them to escape the rather vice-like dynamic of just existing and having diplomatic space between two powerful neighbors."
Mongolia's ambassador echoed that sentiment in his reflection on his country's Third Neighbor policy, whose purpose is to build bilateral relations with countries other than China and Russia. "It is a policy that helps us not be dependent," Altangerel said.
"More work in this direction would serve both countries," Minton said of Mongolia and Korea's diplomatic dialogue.
Looking ahead, Batbayar noted that Mongolia will host an Ulaanbaatar Dialogue summit focused on energy, infrastructure and regional connectivity in June 2015.
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