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Thu Aug 8, 2019, 04:19 PM

Pentagon chief visits Mongolia to strengthen military bonds

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s stop in Ulaanbaatar, the third U.S. engagement with Mongolia in recent weeks, underscored its key role in America’s new defense strategy that lists China and Russia as priority competitors.

With just over 3 million people spread over an area twice the size of Texas, Mongolia has worked to maintain its independence from Beijing and Moscow by increasing its ties to other world powers, including the U.S. It describes the U.S. as a “third neighbor.”

Esper has made it clear throughout his weeklong travel across the Asia Pacific that countering China’s aggressive and destabilizing activities in the region is a top administration priority. The activities, he said, include Beijing’s militarization of manmade islands in the South China Sea, efforts to use predatory economics and debt for sovereignty deals, and a campaign to promote the state-sponsored theft of other nations’ intellectual property.

His stop in Mongolia was less than 24 hours long, but he told his defense counterpart Nyamaagiin Enkhbold, as he stood outside the ministry just steps away from a large statue of Mongolia’s famed founder Genghis Khan, that it gives him the “opportunity to look at different ways we can further strengthen the ties” between the two nations.


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