China, Mongolia Quietly Enhance Military Ties

The Assistant Chief of the General Staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Chen Xiaogong, was in Ulaanbaatar on a four-day visit to attend the third Sino-Mongolian Defense Security Consultation on August 27. Chen’s elevation to the position of Assistant Chief of the General Staff, the top PLA intelligence and policy job, in June 2007 – a year after his predecessor Deputy Chief of the General Staff for intelligence Zhang Qinsheng was made the commander of the Guangzhou Military Region (GMR) – has been watched closely by China experts. In the backdrop of the Russo-Georgian crisis, Chen’s visit to Mongolia (which currently holds observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and attendance at the defense consultation are considered by security experts as highly significant for the development of regional security. The Sino-Mongolian Defense Security Consultation was attended by State Secretary of the Mongolian Defense Ministry Mikhlai Borbaatar. The two sides reportedly discussed issues concerning regional security in Asia and the Pacific, participation in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, and the current state of the bilateral military cooperation (People’s Daily, August 27).

Chen also met with Mongolian Defense Minister Jamiyandorj Batkhuyag and Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar in separate meetings (China.org.cn, August 28). Chen, who is known as an America hand due to his credentials with extensive foreign experience in the United States and as defense attaché from 2001-2003, emphasized in his remarks at the consultation three areas that cooperation between the two militaries had been highly effective: high-level exchanges, personnel training and “frontier defense” (People’s Daily, August 27). Chen further stated that he hopes to enhance military exchanges between the PLA and Mongolian armed forces, and to promote the good neighborly partnership of mutual trust between China and Mongolia.