Event Date: September 26, 2008
Question: Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte visited Mongolia in October of 2007 and the Millennium Challenge was the outcome of those meetings. Why did the United States and Mongolia agree with that outcome? And what do you think the future holds for Mongolia in East Asia?
Amb. Minton: Thanks for your question. At a signing ceremony at the White House on October 22, 2007, U.S. President Bush and Mongolian President Enkhbayar signed a 5-year, nearly $285 million Millennium Challenge Compact for Mongolia designed to reduce poverty by stimulating economic growth. This is the only Compact personally signed by the President of the United States and had been negotiated between our two countries for the previous 3 years. It will support efforts to broaden and deepen economic development in Mongolia by focusing on four key areas including rail, property rights, vocational education, and health.
Deputy Secretary Negroponte has not visited Mongolia in his current capacity. On October 23, 2007, in Washington, Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Mongolian Foreign Minister Enkhbold signed a Declaration of Principles to help guide our bilateral relationship in the years to come. The Deputy Secretary noted that the Declaration will make “the next 20 years of relations strong, vibrant, and mutually beneficial.”
Mongolia has great potential to take a leading role in East Asia by contributing to political stability in the region, aiding in the fight against transnational crime and terrorism, and providing a fertile climate for domestic and regional economic growth. Additionally, through its participation in several international organizations, Mongolia promotes greater regional cooperation and economic integration.
Question: Do you think that the trade between the U.S. and Mongolia since the fall of the Berlin wall has improved living conditions in Mongolia?
Amb. Minton: Mongolia's overall embrace of a market economy and promotion of international trade has improved living conditions, and trade with the United States has certainly been a part of that process. There have been some difficult times, but continuing reforms and the determination to support a market approach continue to send critical signals to other countries that this is a place where businesses can prosper and trade can flourish. Mongolian imports from the United States, such as mining equipment, food products, and chemical products, are of value to individuals and businesses alike, and Mongolia’s overall approach to trade and investment are helping the country benefit from imports from other countries as well. On the export side, Mongolia’s vast mineral resources, as well as its livestock and animal products, make it an attractive trading partner, which in turn supports economic development and ultimately overall living conditions.
Question: What role does Mongolia play in the war on terror? Does it contribute to this common task? What about the inner state of Mongolia? Would you call it a stable country and a vital democracy?
Amb. Minton: Mongolia has sent troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan to aid in the War on Terror. In addition to its contributions to the War on Terror, the Mongolian Armed Forces have been actively involved in keeping peace around the world. In recent years, Mongolian Armed Forces have been developing a readily deployable military force capable of supporting peacekeeping missions worldwide. To date, Mongolia has deployed soldiers to peace keeping operations in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Sudan, Western Sahara, the Congo, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
One reason that Mongolia can begin to take on larger roles in counter terrorism and peacekeeping is because of its stable democratic system. Mongolia’s peaceful transition from socialism to a democracy working towards a free market economy serves as a model for other countries.
Question: How does Mongolia being surrounded by two large domineering countries, Russia and China, keep its autonomy?
Amb. Minton: Mongolia has worked to address its geographical challenges through its support of a “third neighbor” policy, where it seeks engagement with other countries on political and economic issues. We are proud to be one of
Mongolia’s third neighbors, and view it as a sign of commitment and friendship. Mongolia is also reaching out to the world community at large and is playing a greater role in the international political arena. For example, Mongolia has hosted talks between Six-Party members Japan and the D.P.R.K., and they are a signatory to the Proliferation Security Initiative—a unique global effort to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Question: What would you call the most important issue within the relations between the United States and Mongolia? How would you describe them altogether?
Amb. Minton: In 2008 the United States and Mongolia celebrated 20 years of diplomatic relations. Since 1988 our relations have steadily improved and broadened, culminating in two presidential summits within the past 3 years. Our two countries continue to maintain very strong bilateral relations, as evidenced by numerous cooperative programs, including the nearly $285 million Millennium Challenge Compact. During the next 20 years, however, relations between our two countries will be led not by our governments, but by exchanges between private citizens cutting across all sectors of our societies. Contacts between business leaders, academics, scientists, students, teachers, artists, volunteers and others will continue to strengthen our relationship with Mongolia and bring our countries closer together.
Question: What is the United States' official view of this summer's election and the violence that erupted from allegations of vote tampering and fraud?
Amb. Minton: We were deeply concerned about the violence that occurred in the wake of the June Parliamentary elections. Complaints regarding election irregularities should be dealt with through the General Election Commission in a way that respects and reaffirms the democratic principles and practices of
Mongolia. We encouraged the Government of Mongolia to conduct a thorough investigation and apply Mongolia’s laws faithfully, fairly, and in accordance with Mongolia’s democratic principles.
A few weeks ago, the major political parties resolved the underlying political tensions resulting from the parliamentary elections by forming a coalition government, with ministers appointed from both parties. This was accomplished through democratic processes and negotiations, thereby reinforcing Mongolia’s commitment to democracy. It is expected that the new coalition government will be able to pass urgent legislation, including laws on mining to lay a strong foundation for world-class mining to begin in Mongolia
Question: I am honored to have a Mongolian army officer in the staff group of 16 mid-career military officers I instruct at the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. What message would you offer to the 15 United States officers in the group about the importance of their Mongolian colleague's attendance at the Command and General Staff College? What message would you offer to the Mongolian officer?
Amb. Minton: I’m delighted to hear that you have direct experience of working with talented Mongolian military officers. There has been great contact between the United States and Mongolian militaries over the last several years, as Mongolia has sent troops to work beside U.S. forces to Iraq and Afghanistan. And the United States has been extensively engaged within Mongolia in advising its military on ways to pursue its desire to reshape itself as an international peacekeeping force available for UN peacekeeping missions. This interaction has benefited both Mongolian soldiers through training opportunities and the receipt of equipment, and American soldiers by exposure to highly capable Mongolian colleagues. A very special bond has been formed, particularly, between the Alaska National Guard, which has chosen Mongolia as its partner country. There have been many exchanges and joint training programs between the two forces. We are very proud to work together with the Mongolian military forces to ensure greater international security.