Tuesday, August 26, 2014

S. Korea, Mongolia boost ties

The government is strengthening relations with Mongolia, while paying close attention to the Central Asian country's abundant resources and geopolitical significance.

Foreign minister Yun Byung-se and his Mongolian counterpart, Luvsanvandan Bold, met in Ulaanbaatar on Tuesday to discuss the strategic partnership between the two countries at a time when Mongolia is working toward stronger ties with Northeast Asian countries.

In the Mongolian capital, Yun and Bold discussed diplomatic and economic ties between Seoul and Ulaanbaatar in view of the changing geopolitical landscape in Northeast Asia, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Seoul government also said that the two ministers exchanged ideas about threats from North Korea, as well as expanding South Korean enterprises into Mongolia to pursue projects involving social infrastructure and natural resources development.

Yun is in Mongolia for three days, and he will return today.

This is the fourth visit by a South Korean foreign minister to Mongolia, a former communist country, since the two countries established diplomatic ties in March 1990.

It is also the first time in history that Seoul's top diplomat has traveled overseas solely to visit Mongolia.

Previously, the most recent meeting between Yun and Bold took place Aug. 10 in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, during the ASEAN Regional Forum. The annual forum to promote peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region involved the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ― Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia ― as well as the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan, India, Australia and Canada.

Bold and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines.

Seoul, Pyongyang, Washington, Beijing, Tokyo and Moscow have all been seeking closer ties with Ulaanbaatar. This may be related to China's emergence as a superpower, and to shifts in the balance of power in Northeast Asia.

In an Aug. 15 speech, President Park Geun-hye invited Mongolia, along with the United States and Russia, to join South Korea, China and Japan in forming a nuclear safety body. Park said that the body, which she proposed, would help to prevent confrontations by building trust within the region. Mongolia is rich in uranium and has been pushing to build nuclear plants.

Mongolian presidential envoys also visited Pyongyang in July, after a visit to the isolated regime by Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj in October 2013.

During a summit in Mongolia from Aug. 21 to 22, Elbegdorj and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to strengthen ties between Beijing and Ulaanbaatar, saying that the two countries were "comprehensive strategic partners."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met the Mongolian President in Tokyo in July.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to make a state visit to Mongolia next month.

In April, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Mongolian Defense Minister Bat-Erdene Dashdemberel agreed to solidify the defense relationship between the two countries.

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