|Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj. (Yonhap News)|
Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj arrived in Pyongyang on Monday as the first foreign head of state to enter the isolated country since Kim Jong-un took power in December 2011.
The Rodong Sinmun, an official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, expressed hopes that Elbegdorj’s trip would upgrade bilateral ties and boost cooperation in economy, culture and sports.
He was officially invited not by Kim Jong-un, but by its titular head of state Kim Yong-nam, president of the Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium.
His visit is keenly watched as it comes at a time when the North is striving to attract foreign investment and escape isolation stemming from its nuclear and missile tests last year.
Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, who attended celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in July, had been the highest-ranking foreign visitor to the North under Kim’s rule.
High on Elbegdorj’s agenda in Pyongyang is his country’s possible investment in the North’s Rason Special Economic Zone. The land-locked country seeks to use the North’s far northeastern port region for transporting its resources exports, bypassing inland China and Russia.
In early September, a senior North Korean trade official said the sides were close to an agreement over cooperation on international logistics and Mongolian companies’ investment in Rason.
Elbegdorj is also expected to discuss workforce exchanges and cooperation in information technology and agriculture. The two countries signed an IT cooperation pact and are pushing for joint development of a livestock industry complex in the North.
They also seek to increase the number of North Korean workers in Mongolia. North Korean immigrant workers in the central Asian nation totaled about 1,750 as of April, the second largest fgroup ollowing the Chinese.
On the political front, Japanese media reported that Elbegdorj may discuss the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North. In November last year, Japan and North Korea had senior-level talks in Ulan Bator about the matter.
The president’s trip marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations and also comes on the 25th anniversary of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung’s second trip to Ulan Bator.
Mongolia was the second country to formally recognize North Korea after the Soviet Union.
(From news reports)