By Associated Press - Wednesday, July 31, 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump welcomed Mongolia’s president, Khaltmaa Battulga, to the White House for talks that focused on enhancing trade.

The visit Wednesday is the first by a Mongolian president since June 2011, the last time a leader of the landlocked country between Russia and China came to the White House.

Trump administration officials say the meeting was designed to explore ways to help the East Asian nation diversify its trade flows since about 90 percent of Mongolia’s trade must go through China.

Trump and Battulga were also expected to discuss defense and security matters, among other issues. The president greeted Battulga and posed for photos before entering the Oval Office. Trump said Mongolia produced “great fighters, great wrestlers, great champions.”

Battulga is a populist business tycoon and ex-judo champion whose meeting with Trump follows a recent visit to Mongolia by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton.

The White House said the U.S. and Mongolia share a close security partnership. It said Mongolia has pledged to commit troops in Afghanistan through at least 2021 and has been supportive of the U.S. sanctions on North Korea and of negotiations with Kim Jong Un.

The U.S. has a $111 million trade surplus with Mongolia last year. The U.S. is urging Mongolia to fully implement a 2017 agreement on transparency designed to improve the country’s business and investment climate.

Mongolia also signed a $350 million compact last year with the Millennium Challenge Corporation that aims to improve water supply infrastructure in Mongolia’s capital.

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