Mongolian President Makes First Visit to North Korea in Nine Years

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj made a four-day visit to North Korea from Oct. 28-31 to become the first foreign head of state to visit the socialist country since the incumbent leader Kim Jong-un took control in late 2011.
Elbegdorj, who was also the first Mongolian leader to visit Pyongyang in nine years, discussed with North Korean officials the furthering of economic and other cooperation between the two countries, including the North's titular head of state Kim Yong-nam, according to the North's state media. A much-expected meeting with Kim Jong-un did not take place, however.
The last visit by a Mongolian head of state to North Korea was in December 2004 when former President Natsagiin Bagabandi visited Pyongyang. Bagabandi held talks with Kim Yong-nam but did not meet with Kim Jong-il.
In a banquet hosted by the North's Presidium of Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) on Oct. 29, the Mongolian president stressed that his country will work with Pyongyang to promote stability in Northeast Asia, the North's state media reported on Oct. 29.
The (North) Korean Central Television (KCTV) said President Elbegdorj emphasized the important role that can be played by Pyongyang and Ulaanbaatar in pushing forward peace and stability in the region. The broadcaster said the remark was made by the chief executive following talks with Kim Yong-nam, the president of the SPA Presidium.
Elbegdorj added that Mongolia was ready to work with all interested parties so as to contribute to the prosperity of Northeast Asia.
KCTV then said that officials from the two countries were in agreement on the need to expand cooperation in trade and investment, and shared the view that such developments will further bilateral interests.
Kim Yong-nam, meanwhile, said that there has been continuous cooperation in military and sports as well as in political and economic realms, and that Pyongyang is committed to expanding strong ties with Ulaanbaatar.
North Korea experts in Seoul and abroad said Elbegdorj's visit is significant, as it marks the first one by a foreign head of state since Kim Jong-un took control of the communist country.
Elbegdorj arrived in Pyongyang on Oct. 28 and visited the truce town of Panmunjom and the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, a mausoleum housing the bodies of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung and late leader Kim Jong-il. He also watched a performance by the Mansudae Art Troupe at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater.
Elbegdorj also met with Pak Pong-ju, premier of the North's Cabinet, at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang on Oct. 30, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the same day, without elaborating on the content of the talks.
Elbegdorj's visit to North Korea will likely expand substantial bilateral cooperation, North Korea watchers said.
North Korea and Mongolia have maintained close ties as socialist countries. Elbegdorj's visit is expected to contribute to expanding the traditional ties further, especially in the field of economic cooperation, they said.
The two countries signed an agreement on cooperation in the fields of industry and agriculture and an agreement on cooperation in the fields of culture, sports and tourism on Oct. 28 between the governments of the DPRK (North Korea) and Mongolia.
The agreement on cooperation in the fields of industry and agriculture was inked by Ri Ryong-nam, minister of Foreign Trade, and Khaltmaa Battulga, minister of Industry and Agriculture. The agreement on cooperation in the fields of culture, sports and tourism was inked by Kim Jong-suk, chairwoman of the (North) Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and Luvsanvandan Bold, minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on behalf of the governments of the DPRK and Mongolia. Kim Yong-nam and and Elbegdorj were present at the signing ceremony.
Meanwhile, the 2013-2015 plan for exchange in the IT field between the General Bureau of Software Industry of the DPRK and the IT, Post and Telecommunication Bureau of Mongolia was signed.
North Korea experts also pointed out that the Mongolian president's visit to North Korea may be a result of Mongolia's judgment that it will serve its national interest by showing a sense of its presence in international community . The country is surrounded by superpowers Russia and China.
While Mongolia can be branded as a contributor to the peace and stability in East Asia by helping in the globalization of North Korea, North Korea will also be able to improve its image of an isolationist country.
Chang Yong-suk, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, said Mongolia can enhance its international status while gaining benefits from economic cooperation with North Korea. North Korea, on the other hand, can utilize Mongolia as an exit to escape from diplomatic and economic isolation.
North Korea is becoming increasingly isolated within the international community as it continues to defy international warnings against its nuclear and missile programs. In April this year, Pyongyang asked Ulaanbaatar for food aid.
"North Korea appears to be trying to diversify its diplomatic front as it faces increasing isolation," a diplomatic source in Beijing said.

Source:Yonhap News Agency
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