Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin and Pentagon Chief Mark Esper, both of whom are currently visiting Mongolia, may hold a meeting to discuss the situation in North Korea and the entire Asia-Pacific region following the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Chairman of the Board of the Valdai International Discussion Club’s Development and Support Foundation Andrei Bystritsky, told TASS on Thursday.
“We can’t rule it [a meeting between the two officials] out, I think they have things to discuss. First of all, there are issues related to intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles and the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the North Korea issue that concerns everyone,” the expert said.
According to Bystritsky, the fact that senior military officials from Russia and the US are making visits to Mongolia at the same time “may seem a mere coincidence but in fact it is not, because building a new system of relations in the region is important for everyone.”
The Pentagon earlier declined to answer a TASS question about the possibility of a meeting between the two countries’ delegations in Mongolia.
The expert pointed out that the US and Mongolia had signed a declaration on strategic partnership during Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga’s recent visit to the United States, and Esper’s trip to Mongolia was also aimed at boosting ties between Washington and Ulaanbaatar.
According to Bystritsky, the Pentagon chief’s visit is particularly important in light of the INF Treaty situation and China’s stance on the issue. Before the start of his Asian trip, Esper supported the idea of deploying ground-based missiles to the region. “The Chinese said they don’t want any US missiles in their vicinity,” the expert noted.
Dialogue with Russia
At the same time, in Bystritsky’s words, Mongolia seeks to make it clear that rapprochement with Washington won’t affect its dialogue with Moscow. “Mongolia is demonstrating that relations with the US won’t impede ties with Russia,” he said.
During a visit to Mongolia, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has held talks with Mongolian Defense Minister Nyamaagiin Enkhbold, while Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin has met with the country’s President Khaltmaagiin Battulga and Deputy Defense Minister T. Dulamdorj.
Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website