Japan seeks Mongolia support over island spat

Al Jazeera
Japan seeks Mongolia support over island spat
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Japan seeks Mongolia support over island spat

Shinzo Abe, Japanese prime minister, has sought support from Mongolia over Japan's East China Sea islands dispute with China during a visit to the former communist country.

Abe arrived in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbatar on Saturday to seek closer trade and diplomatic ties with the mineral-rich nation.

Mongolia is a potentially important strategic partner because of its location on China's northern border and diplomatic ties with North Korea.

"I asked for Mongolian support relating to the Chinese situation and Mongolia expressed its understanding of the Japanese position," Abe said in response to questions from journalists about the islands.

"I understand the Mongolian situation regarding this issue."

Abe has not held summit meetings with Chinese leaders since he took power in December.

'Door open' for talks

Abe said at a press conference, which followed meetings with Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag, that  "the door is open for talks" with China.

Abe also discussed North Korea's nuclear ambitions with Mongolia on the first day of his two-day visit.

North Korea declared on Saturday that it was in a "state of war" with South Korea and that any provocation by the South or the United States  would escalate into a nuclear conflict.

"I explained the Japanese position that the North Korean actions are provocation and we never accept them," Abe said.

"We shouldn't allow any provocative act by North Korea."

Abe aims to develop closer economic ties with Mongolia during the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to the former Communist country in almost seven years.

Mineral-rich country

Mongolia has huge mineral deposits at its disposal and Japan hopes to  secure more fuel resources abroad after its atomic power plans were affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis, set off by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

China is currently Mongolia's leading trade partner and source of foreign investment.

"As Mongolia is rich in natural resources, Japan's technological co-operation will lead to a win-win for both countries," Abe said.

Abe's visit came as Ma Ying-jeou Ma, president of Taiwan, commissioned on Saturday a new 2,000-tonne Xinbei cutter vessel to boost patrol off the islands Japan claims as the Senkakus and China as the Diaoyus.

The vessel is equipped with machine guns and water cannons and will join a fleet of smaller ships to patrol the islands.

Ma renewed his calls for parties to negotiate and set aside their claims to the islands and jointly develop the rich natural resources there.

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