Mongolia, as a country following a policy of balance in the international arena, is able to develop relations with both China and Russia, as well as the United States (USA) and the West. Its increasing importance, particularly in the eyes of China and Russia, is due to the natural resources it possesses. Indeed, China’s increased pressure from the West after the Russia-Ukraine War and its desire to diversify economic partners have increased Mongolia’s significance.
In line with its foreign policy reflecting neutrality, Mongolia maintains relations with both the East and the West. For instance, Pope Francis’ visit to Mongolia [i] from September 1 to 4, 2023, where he became the first Pope [ii] to visit the country, serves as a notable example. Mongolia has approximately 1,500 Christians and 8 churche [iii] The occurrence of this visit signifies a positive momentum and stability in Mongolia’s relations with the West.
Prior to Pope Francis’ visit, on August 3, 2023, Mongolia’s Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene visited the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) and held various discussions. The Mongolian Prime Minister stated the following about the United States : [iv]
“I emphasize that the United States is not only our strategic third neighbor but also our guiding pole star on Mongolia’s democratic journey.”
During these discussions, military matters were also addressed, and consensus was reached on various issues. Michael S. Chase, Assistant Secretary of Defense for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia, pointed out that Mongolia had fought alongside the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and played a significant role in the United Nations Peacekeeping Force [v]
Mongolia’s collaboration with the United States and the West extends beyond military matters. For example, on August 3, 2023, it was announced that the United States would invest $25 million in Mongolia through a series of agreements . [vi]
By August 29, 2023, Mongolia and the United States had signed a memorandum of understanding on the management and development of mineral resources. Furthermore, both countries agreed to strengthen practices in developing the mining resources sector in each country and jointly develop secure and resilient critical mineral supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region . [vii]
As seen, Mongolia, geographically surrounded by Russia and China, continues to maintain relations with the United States and the West on various fronts, attaching great importance to the development of these relationships.
In addition to its growing relations with the West, Mongolia is also working to enhance its relations with China, Russia, and Belarus. Actions aimed at establishing closer and healthier relations with Mongolia are observed even in Belarus, known for its proximity to China and Russia. For instance, Sergei Ailenik, Belarus’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with Mongolia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Battsetseg Batmunkh during the United Nations 78th General Assembly opening session and exchanged ideas in various fields. The ministers also agreed on potential reciprocal visits . [viii]
Regarding developments in the China-Mongolia relationship, it is evident that the Ulan Bator Government is inclined to establish and improve healthy relations with Beijing. Indeed, during a meeting between China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Mongolia’s Secretary of the National Security Council Jedamba Enkhbayar in Moscow on September 19, 2023, both parties agreed to enhance security relations . [ix]
Economically, it is observed that as of August 2023, China has increased its coal imports from Mongolia by 20.5%. [x] China’s efforts to foster good relations with Mongolia are important for its own energy security as Mongolia ranks 18th in coal production and 23rd in coal reserves worldwide .[xi]
Additionally, Mongolia’s positive relations with North Korea contribute to its growing importance in the region. It is known that Japan cooperates with Mongolia on the issue of Japanese citizens being abducted to North Korea
In conclusion, Mongolia, due to its geographical location, natural resources, and good relations with North Korea, is an influential player that attracts the attention of global powers. Therefore, the Ulan Bator administration is working to make its foreign policy multidimensional, prioritizing national interests, much like Vietnam and South Korea.
[i] Sophie Tanno-Eve Brennan, “A 10-hour flight to meet 1,500 Catholics: The Pope visits Mongolia”, CNN, dition.cnn.com/2023/09/02/asia/pope-francis-mongolia-trip-intl/index.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 02.09.2023).
[ii] Aynı yer.
[iii] Linda Bordoni, “Pope Arrives in Mongolia to Visit ‘People of A Great Culture’”, Vatican News, www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2023-09/pope-arrival-mongolia-apostolic-visit.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 04.09.2023).
[iv] Jim Garamone, “U.S., Mongolia Discuss Military-to-Military Relations During Pentagon Visit”, U.S Department of Defence, www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3482715/us-mongolia-discuss-military-to-military-relations-during-pentagon-visit/, (Erişim Tarihi: 03.08.2023).
[v] Aynı yer.
[vi] “The United States Announces Nearly $13 Million to Advance a Prosperous, Secure, and Resilient Mongolia”, USAID, www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/aug-03-2023-united-states-announces-nearly-13-million-advance-prosperous-secure-and-resilient-mongolia, (Erişim Tarihi: 03.08.2023).
[vii] “United States – Mongolia Memorandum of Understanding on Mineral Resources”, U.S. Department of State, www.state.gov/united-states-mongolia-memorandum-of-understanding-on-mineral-resources/, (Erişim Tarihi: 29.08.2023).
[viii] “Belarusian FM Meets with Foreign Ministers of Mongolia, Nicaragua In New York”, Belta, eng.belta.by/politics/view/belarusian-fm-meets-with-foreign-ministers-of-mongolia-nicaragua-in-new-york-161884-2023/, (Erişim Tarihi: 20.09.2023).
[ix] “China, Mongolia Agree to Deepen Security Cooperation”, CGTN, news.cgtn.com/news/2023-09-20/China-Mongolia-agree-to-deepen-security-cooperation-1ng2ua3FuCI/index.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 20.09.2023).
[x] Qin Ningwei-Dominique Patton, “China’s Coal Imports from Russia, Mongolia Jump in August”, Reuters, www.reuters.com/article/china-economy-trade-coal/chinas-coal-imports-from-russia-mongolia-jump-in-august-idUSL4N3AV0J9, (Erişim Tarihi: 20.09.2023).
[xi] “Mongolia Coal”, Worldmeter, www.worldometers.info/coal/mongolia-coal/, (Erişim Tarihi: 20.09.2023).