The Yomiuri Shimbun
August 11, 2006
Mongolia has recently been in the
international spotlight, not just because of its mineral
resources, but also as a stage where China and Russia on one
side and the United States on the other are playing a game of
This is probably why Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi decided
to visit the country before he leaves office.
During his meeting with Mongolian Prime Minister Miyeegombyn
Enkhbold on Thursday, the two leaders agreed to establish a
"forum for dialogue" over regional situations, including North
With the establishment of the forum, Japan may hope Mongolia
will join the international coalition against North Korea,
with which Mongolia has had diplomatic relations since it was
a communist state.
At the forum, the two countries, naturally, will take up for
discussion moves by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,
which groups China, Russia and four Central Asian nations,
with Mongolia taking part as an observer.
Ulan Bator draws a line
This organization has raised its profile not only over the
development of energy resources in Central Asian nations, but
also as an emergent "anti-U.S. league."
Last summer, Uzbekistan demanded the withdrawal of U.S.
military bases from its soil, in line with a policy adopted at
a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. There is
now only one U.S. base in Central Asia--in Kyrgyz Republic.
Mongolia has drawn a line between the organization's stance
and its own. Sandwiched between the two major powers of China
and Russia, and with China's economic influence rising
recently, Mongolia is attempting to foster better relations
with the United States, in an apparent bid to reduce its
dependency on China and Russia.
The United States, for its part, attaches importance to
Mongolia, which it wants to use as diplomatic leverage against
China and Russia. In autumn, U.S. President George W. Bush and
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld paid separate visits to
Mongolia in which they discussed ways to reinforce bilateral
relations in areas including military cooperation. On Friday,
Mongolia will start joint military exercises with U.S. forces
on its soil.
Tokyo's help welcomed
Japan is another country with which Mongolia is hoping to
reinforce its bilateral relations.
Since Mongolia became a democracy in 1990 and shifted to a
market economy, Japan has been its biggest aid donor. In
recognition of this, Mongolian presidents and prime ministers
have visited Japan on eight occasions in the past 16 years.
For Japan, stronger relations with Mongolia are strategically
significant when this country involves itself in regional
developments, in step with the United States, in respect of
the organization's energy policy.
Due to remarkable performances by yokozuna Asashoryu and other
professional sumo wrestlers from Mongolia, sumo is said to be
enjoying a boom in Mongolia. Given the pro-Japan sentiment in
Mongolia, Japan to reinforce its ties with the country with
During his meeting with Enkhbold, Koizumi presented the people
of Mongolia with copies of the Japanese folktales picture
books "Kasa Jizo" (Kasa Guardian Deity) and "Tsuru no Ongaeshi"
(The Grateful Crane). This was in response to a request from
Mongolia asking Japan to recommend some of its folktales that
Mongolia could include in its primary and middle school
If the affinity among people of both countries strengthens at
a grassroots level like this, bilateral relations between
Japan and Mongolia will become firmer in turn.