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(Yonhap Interview) Mongolian president signals intention to help resolve N.K. nuclear standoff

All News 15:30 July 16, 2016

By Song Sang-ho, Hong Je-sung

ULAANBAATAR, July 16 (Yonhap) -- Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj on Saturday signaled his country's intention to play a role in finding a solution to the decades-long nuclear standoff involving North Korea through its long-term dialogue initiative.

In a written interview with Yonhap News Agency, Elbegdorj said that since 2013, it has been pushing for the "Ulaanbaatar Dialogue Initiative on Northeast Asian Security" to promote peace and cooperation in the region long plagued by territorial and historical feuds.

"The initiative aims to strengthen cooperation in Northeast Asia, and part of its objectives is to help promote a peaceful resolution of the issue surrounding the Korean Peninsula," the president said.

"We have a long-term goal to build the foundation for continued, practical cooperation by continuously holding official and unofficial meetings based on the principle of respecting the rights and proposals of the participants."

In a reference to a rise in tensions on the Korean Peninsula, caused by Pyongyang's relentless provocations including its nuclear test in January and repeated land-based, sea-based ballistic missile tests, Elbegdorj voiced concerns.

He then pointed out that Mongolia's declaration in 1992 of a nuclear-weapons free zone has played a crucial role in maintaining peace in the region and beyond. The declaration was made at the U.N. General Assembly.

"Mongolia's denuclearization position will reduce the nuclear dangers and positively affect the security in the region," he said.

Elbegdorj, who spearheaded Mongolia's democratization campaign in the 1990s, has been noted for the 2013 remarks that he made during his visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

During a speech at a university named after the North's late national founder Kim Il-sung, the Mongolian leader said, "No dictatorship can stay (in power) for good... People's aspirations for a free life will be the everlasting strength."

Commenting on the daring remarks, Elbegdorj said, "Although they (North Koreans) argue that they have chosen and have been developing a unique (political) system, time will tell how this country will change and develop."

Welcoming President Park Geun-hye who is currently in Ulaanbaatar to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit and for bilateral talks with him, frequent meetings between the leaders of the two nations bear "great meaning." Park and Elbegdorj last met for a summit in May in Seoul.

"Frequent consultations between the two leaders carry a great meaning in terms of deepening mutual cooperation," he stressed.

Park's visit this time will help upgrade the two nations' comprehensive partnership to a new level, and expand cooperation in "strategic areas" including energy, infrastructure and information technology (IT), he said.

Capitalizing on the two countries' "complementary" economic structure, the two nations have recently been seeking to bolster cooperation in various areas such as clean, renewable energy, telemedicine and mineral resource development.

South Korea has touted that Mongolia, with a population of 3 million, is a "promising niche" market that offers new business opportunities for South Korea's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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