Japan to help Mongolia develop mineral wealth


Visiting Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a joint action plan Monday pledging expanded bilateral cooperation, including government talks on ways to utilize rich mineral resources in Mongolia.

The two countries will expand a working group under their trade ministries to include the private sector and discuss development of Mongolia’s mineral wealth, the action plan says.

“I’d like to welcome (the fact that) Japanese companies, particularly large firms, have shown interest and eagerness in developing the underground resources,” Enkhbayar was quoted by a Japanese official as saying during his meeting with Abe.

He said the Mongolian parliament and government are now preparing laws concerning mining development, adding the country will welcome proposals from Japanese companies on the legislation.

The action plan is designed to broaden high-level political dialogue and strengthen cooperation in the areas of politics, economics, culture and education over the next 10 years, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Mongolia expressed support for Japan’s efforts to win a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, according to the plan The country also conceded to Japan the right to run as a nonpermanent member of the U.N. council in 2008.

On the other hand, Japan, Mongolia’s largest aid donor, expressed its intention to continue economic assistance and to draw up a new midterm aid plan, according to Foreign Ministry officials.

Japan is trying to boost ties with Mongolia, which boasts vast underground resources such as coal, gold and copper.

The Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit reportedly has reserves of 5.1 billion tons, one of the largest in the world, and the Oyu Tolgoi area reportedly has 15 million tons of copper, the world’s second-largest reserve, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Mongolia has difficulties developing these resources, including insufficient transport infrastructure. The future bilateral dialogue will include the infrastructure problem, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Abe also asked Mongolia to help Japan’s efforts to solve issues related to Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents. Mongolia traditionally has maintained relatively strong diplomatic relations with Pyongyang and is believed to have some influence over the reclusive communist state.

In response, Enkhbayar said that he “understands” that the abduction issue carries heavy importance for Japan and that he hopes there will be some progress soon, according to Japanese officials.

Thanks in part to the popularity of Mongolian-born sumo grand champion Asashoryu, Mongolian people in general have a good impression of Japan. Japan came out on top of a recent media poll asking which countries Mongolia should maintain friendly relations with.