- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2005

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — U.S. military relations with the northern Asian nation of Mongolia are strong and should cause no worries to neighboring China and Russia, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters here after stops in Beijing and Seoul, Mr. Rumsfeld praised the Mongolian military’s dispatch of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the visit, Defense Minister Tserenkhuu Sharavdorj presented Mr. Rumsfeld with a Mongolian horse, a traditional sign of respect. The horse will be kept in the country in honor of Mr. Rumsfeld, who named it Montana.

Mr. Rumsfeld made the five-hour visit a month before President Bush is scheduled to travel to the country for an Asian economic summit.

The defense secretary said the United States and Mongolia share a “strong military-to-military relationship,” and he praised Mongolia’s decision to shift its military toward peacekeeping.

“If there is anything that is clear in the 21st century, it is that the world needs peacekeeping,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “I congratulate the people of Mongolia and the government and armed forces of Mongolia for selecting that as a principal aspect of their military focus.”

Asked if Mongolia fears living between two authoritarian neighbors — Russia and China — Mr. Sharavdorj said, “I do not perceive any concern from our neighbors to the current level of Mongolia-U.S. military ties. We also do have similar military cooperation with the militaries of Russia and China.”

Mr. Rumsfeld also said Russia and China should have no concerns about U.S. military ties to Mongolia because “the relationship is continually focused on peacekeeping.”

During a meeting with Mongolian military veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, the defense secretary paid tribute to two sergeants who prevented a terrorist truck-bomb attack in February in Hillah, Iraq.

Sgts. Azzaya and Sambuu-Yondon were working perimeter security for Polish troops at Logistic Base Charley when a large truck approached the base and the driver refused to halt. From a long distance, Sgt. Azzaya fired his AK-47 at the driver, killing him before he could reach the base or its gates.

“If he had not stopped the truck, there would have been a significant loss of life,” an unidentified senior defense official said, noting that the Polish forces awarded a medal to the sergeant for his action.

The official said Mongolia’s armed forces have declined from a Soviet-era high of about 70,000 troops to a current level of about 11,000.

The government has decided to become a “world-class peacekeeping force,” that will be able to provide engineers, military police or infantry troops to world hot spots, the official said.

Mongolia is focusing its defense efforts on building close relations with its neighbors rather than undertaking a large-scale military buildup, the official said. It considers the United States its “third neighbor” after Russia and China.

“We have a strong bilateral relationship based on shared values,” the official said.

The United States is providing Mongolia’s forces with $18 million to upgrade outdated and aging equipment. Part of the money will help pay for setting up an international peacekeeping training center under the Global Peace Operations Initiative. The center is under construction at the Five Hills Training Center outside Ulan Bator.

The U.S. military conducts annual exercises with Mongolian troops called “Khaan-quest,” and six U.S. Marines are embedded with Mongolian troops as trainers.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide