2014/07/22

Mongolia’s tango with Pyongyang

A Dutch opinion maker Jort van Oosterhout wrote "Mongolia's Tango with Pyongyang" at the NKnews.org, an independent web site headquartered in the US focused on North Korea. The article was also translated and published on News.mn here.

On May 23 Mongolia provided North Korea and the United States neutral ground in its capital for track 1.5 meetings. Presumably, North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy met with two former U.S. State Department officials to discuss resumption of the Six Party Talks, which have been at a complete standstill since 2009. Ulaanbaatar has been keen on normalizing Pyongyang’s fractious relations with its adversaries and assist its Soviet-era ally in implementing economic reform. In this way, Mongolia has unveiled an alternative strategy that could incrementally reconfigure Pyongyang’s behavior, offering the U.S. some lessons for its failing North Korea policy.

Mongolia, as a former socialist country, maintains friendly relations with both North Korea and South Korea, and vigorously try to become stakeholder in six-party talk by hosting a number of official talks in the past in Ulaanbaatar. The President Elbegdorj himself visited Pyongyang in October 2013 at the invitation of Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly as KCNA said, (not at the invitation of the leader Kim Jong Un). During his visit he did not meet with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un. Elbegdorj was the first foreign head of state to visit Pyongyang since 2011 when Kim took over the country following the sudden death of his father and long-time leader Kim Jong Il.

However, Mongolian officials pay regular visits to Pyongyang, the last high profile visit by North Korea was in July 2007. Kim Yong Nam he visited Ulaanbaatar in July 2007 and signed bilateral cooperation agreements on health, trade, marine transport, and labor force exchange.
Mongolian businesses hire more than 1,000 North Korean laborers mostly in construction sector.

The last visit by Mongolian side was just a week ago. It was Member of Parliament Kh.Battulga.
North Korean KCNA News Agency referred him as special "Envoy of Mongolian Leader and his party".

Special Envoy of Mongolian President Pays Tribute to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il
Pyongyang, July 14 (KCNA) -- The special envoy of the Mongolian president and his party laid bouquets before the statues of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il on Mansu Hill on Monday and paid tribute to them in humble reverence. 
Mongolian people and press was not fully aware of his entire visit and he carried a personal message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from Mongolian President. The content of the message was not publicized either in Mongolia or North Korea.

Personal Message to Kim Jong Un from Mongolian President
Pyongyang, July 15 (KCNA) -- Supreme leader Kim Jong Un received a personal message from Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj.
The message was conveyed to Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly, on Tuesday by Khaltmaa Battulga, member of the State Great Hural, who is the special envoy of the Mongolian president on a visit to the DPRK. 

Kh.Battulga, a businessman and an influential leader among his Democratic Party faction at the Parliament, visited North Korea a number of times in the past. Last year he visited Pyongyang as a Minister of Industry and Agriculture. And, this time he visited as special envoy of President Elbegdorj according to North Korean KCNA. Mongolian news portal web site Gogo.mn reported that Battulga made prior notification to the both Office of the Parliament and Ministry  of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia that he is leaving for Pyongyang, but didn't make purpose of his visit and tour agenda public. Gogo.mn reported under question-marked headline that "Battulga has left for North Korea to build oil refinery?" Another web site Dorgio also reported his visit. 24.mn wrote he left for North Korea to start dialogue to establish oil refinery plant in North Korea that will refine oil imported from Russia in North Korea and ship to Mongolia. Battulga was a businessman that did not win the privatization tender bid of NIC Oil, Mongolia's monopoly state-run oil import company at that time. According to KCNA, he visited West Sea Barrage and enjoyed bird's-eye view of the port

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