Why Is the UB Dialogue Important?

By Soyolgerel Nyamjav and Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Amidst increased geopolitical tensions and lingering pandemic effects, Mongolia, a
small, landlocked state hosted three major international in-person events in June.
Khaan Quest, an annual multinational peacekeeping exercise, was organized at the Five Hills Peace Support Operations Training Centre.  Over thousand military
personnel from fifteen countries, including the United States, South Korea, Japan, and
India – those dispatched a large military contingent, exercised for peacekeeping
deployments. At the same time, Mongolia hosted the first-ever Women, Peace and
Security conference welcoming over 60 female peacekeepers from 30 countries as well
as Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations of the
United Nations. Then, in June 23-25, Mongolia organized the 7 th “Ulaanbaatar Dialogue”
on Northeast Asian Security. Here we would like to explain why the Ulaanbaatar
Dialogue (known as the UB Dialogue or UBD) is an important foreign policy endeavour for
Mongolia.

History of the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue

The UBD is a continuation of Mongolia’s multilateral foreign policy to welcome
international participants to Mongolia and to be a part of the international community.
This policy had been disrupted during the Cold War when Mongolia had no choice to
become the Soviet ally and its foreign policy had been dictated by the Kremlin. Even
though during this time, Mongolia invited many newly independent small states of the
Asia Pacific Region in 1960s-70s to share its experience of the socialist bloc (CMEA) –
aided economic development.

Also, Mongolia became a hub for the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace from the 1970s. In the late 1980s, as the geopolitical tension among the great powers declined, Mongolia pursued a quite aggressive policy for offering itself as a dialogue venue for peace and cooperation in the Asia Pacific Region.

Building on this successful foreign policy to develop bilateral ties with China and ‘third neighbours’ – mostly developed democracies (or the Western countries) in 1990s, Mongolia began to make renewed efforts to offer the multilateral platform. In 2008, the Mongolian Institute for Strategic Studies  along with the George Marshall Centre for European Security Studies organized a conference, titled “Ulaanbaatar as New Helsinki?” to promote Mongolia as a neutral venue for the regional security talk. Later, in 2013, the Pres Elbergdorj endorsed the ‘venue for multilateral dialogue’ idea and coined the UB Dialogue as a long-term foreign policy initiative to engage all Northeast Asian countries, including countries with hostile relations.

7th Ulaanbaatar Dialogue

After two years of disruptions due to the COVID19 pandemic, Mongolia hosted the 7th UB Dialogue – which is noted the first-ever in-person international dialogue in Northeast Asia. In several ways, this year’s dialogue was unique.

For one, North Korea was missing because of the pandemic and a lack of the virtual connection. In all previous dialogues, North Korean participation was important for many other participants, especially for Japan – who managed to organize a side bilateral meeting during the UB Dialogue, and many European participants. However, a well-known German expert on North Korea offered his insights on the DPRK.

Second, Russia’s participation in the dialogue was the hottest topic among international participants, some declined their participation, and some left during the Russian delegate’s speech. Many participants, including Mongolian speakers, were in agreement to end the hostility in Ukraine and to find a peaceful solution to ongoing military conflict.

Third, the inclusion of the youth speakers (as a main panel) was applauded by the majority of participants. This year, the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) organized a youth panel by providing opportunities for youth representatives from China, Japan, Mongolia, and South Korea to present their views on regional peace and security with policymakers and scholars.

Fourth, the Business Council of Mongolia (BCM) and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) organized sessions devoted to discuss the post-pandemic economic cooperation and power grid connectivity in the region. Finally, the host nation welcomed the participation from the Kyrgyz Republic and many other international participants from Europe; thus provides opportunities for Northeast Asian experts to share and compare their perspectives on regional cooperation.

In retrospect, the UB Dialogue is becoming a modest and unique regional venue for
policy-makers, academics, and youth exchange their views and hopes on Northeast
Asian matters. This year, the track one closed door meeting was hosted by the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and this meeting was attended by senior foreign ministry
officials from thirteen countries, plus the United Nations. The security session is now
divided into two parts: the first session discusses challenges and the other searches
ways to promote the confidence building. The UNDPPA will continue to work with
organizers to have the youth session as an important part of the dialogue, where youths
from Northeast Asia and elsewhere could share their visions of region. The economic
sessions are now jointly organized by the BCM, a Mongolian non-governmental
organization, and USESCAP, in hope to make the economic aspects as critical part of
the UB dialogue. Overcoming its two-year interruptions, the UB dialogue revived and
appears to be on a narrow path to become an international conference on Northeast
Asian matters.

About Soyolgerel Nyamjav

Soyolgerel Nyamjav is the Head of the Centre for International Security at the Institute for Strategic Studies, National Security Council of Mongolia. Soyolgerel’s research focuses on security studies especially Mongolia’s security environment, geopolitical situation, Central Asian regional problems and regional multilateral mechanisms.  

About mendee

Jargalsaikhan Mendee is a Deputy Director of the Institute for Defense Studies of Mongolia. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia, and MAs in International Relations from the US Naval Postgraduate School and in Asia-Pacific Policy Studies from the Institute of Asian Research of the University of British Columbia.
This entry was posted in China, Germany, International Relations, Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, Ulaanbaatar Dialogue, UN, United States and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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