Mongolia Seeks to Play Peacemaker as North Korea Declares ‘War’

Mongolia called for six-party talks to be resumed after North Korea said it’s in a “state of war” with its neighbor to the south.

“Mongolia would like to extend its relationship with North Korea,” Prime Minister Norovyn Altankhuyag said at a press conference in Ulaanbaatar with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. “Mongolia can contribute if they initiate any meetings.”

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency stepped up its rhetoric against South Korea a month after the secretive regime defied global sanctions by detonating a nuclear device. Mongolia is one of the few countries to have a working relationship with both North Korea and the U.S., and hosted talks between the communist state and Japan in November.

Six-party talks have continued, on and off, for years between South Korea, North Korea, China, the U.S., Russia and Japan. Mongolia has maintained good relations with North Korea for decades and, in a March 7 interview, Foreign Minister Luvsanvandan Bold said he’d broached the matter of opening up with the hardline state.

Altankhuyag said he supports Japan’s efforts to repatriate citizens kidnapped by North Korea, which Abe said he hopes can be resolved during his administration.

“Japan will never accept these North Korean tests,” Abe said, speaking at the start of a two-day visit to the Mongolian capital. “North Korea has to follow” United Nations Security Council resolutions, he said.

Mongolia’s booming mining sector is attracting the attention of its neighbors and Abe agreed to cooperate on several economic initiatives. The Japanese leader announced a 4.2 billion-yen ($45 million) loan to upgrade Ulaanbaatar’s Power Station No. 4, built by the Soviets in 1981. The upgrade will increase the capacity of the power station by 100 megawatts to 580 megawatts.

Japan also aims to assist Ulaanbaatar to build its first metro line, a 10 1/2-mile train line with 3.7 miles to be dug underground, according to a press release issued by Mongolia. The cooperation agreement also includes the development of a new international airport and Mongolia’s first oil refinery.

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