Preventing a Catastrophe: Nuclear Diplomacy of a Non-nuclear-weapon State
(Mongolia’s Case)

Enkhsaikhan Jargalsaikhan
Chairman, Blue Banner (NGO), Mongolia


In this nuclear age, naturally, much is being written and discussed about nuclear policies of nuclear-weapon states (NWS), both de jure recognized states (P5 (i)) and their allies under the nuclear umbrella as well as de facto nuclear weapon states that are trying, to some extent, to catch up with the P5. However, the vast majority of the international community, the non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWSs), is calling not only for nuclear non-proliferation but also for banning and eliminating nuclear weapons altogether. In the past decade much has also been written about the nuclear program of Iran and the nuclear weapon program of the DPRK, the former portrayed as having a nuclear-weapons ambition that could change the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East and way beyond, and the latter as a de facto nuclear-weapon state that has no intention to abandon its nuclear-weapons program that, if continued, would trigger a nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia.

On the other hand, not much is known about the policies of NNWS, especially those that border on NWS that are, or could be, compelled to play a certain role in broader nuclear power geostrategic equations. However, the choice that such states make in this interconnected world is of no minor importance for regional predictability and stability.

The purpose of this article is to shed some light on the policy of Mongolia, a small NNWS sandwiched between two nuclear powers. It will show how it is trying to cope with a possible risk, if not checked, of a nuclear catastrophe and demonstrate that today, every state whether large or small, can and should contribute to making this world a safer place. The article will also underline the increasingly important role of diplomacy manifested by competition, cooperation and compromise, as well as the untapped possibilities and limits of NNWS in contributing to making this world safer. It will also show that it takes two to tango, meaning that cooperation on the part of the P5 is essential in making progress on such issues.

The article does not deal with the potential benefits as well as the risks of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. That is a topic of a separate study.

Foreign policy goals and priorities

In many respects, and certainly in foreign relations and diplomacy, Mongolia’s policies are mainly the products of its geographical location and reflection of the major events of that particular particular time period. In many cases, its policies can be understood as reactions to the events underway in neighboring Russia and China, in their relations as well as with other major powers. That is why Mongolia tries, within its limited possibilities and resources available and when circumstances allow, to foresee and influence events, to the extent possible, so as to reduce harm for itself and, if possible, to turn the circumstances or events to its advantage.

Mongolians are a proud people with an ancient and rich history. Suffice it to mention Genghis Khan (in Mongolian written as Chinggis Khaan) and his successors, who built the largest land empire in history linking Asia and Europe through the Silk Road. With the disintegration of the Mongol Empire, the world saw the gradual rise and expansion of Russian and Chinese empires overtaking the remnants of the Mongol Empire. By early XX century Mongolia found itself tightly squeezed between Russia and China and trying to protect its independence regained during the downfall of the Qing Empire in China in 1911. In order to protect itself from possible encroachment on its declared independence, Mongolia turned to Russia and became its satellite, thus following the latter’s domestic and foreign policies throughout the most of XX century until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s.

Membership in the United Nations in 1961, gradual expansion of foreign relations and establishing diplomatic relations with the United States in 1987 signaled the end of its diplomatic and political isolation. The break-up of the Soviet bloc and the disintegration of the Soviet Union led to a fundamental transformation of Mongolia from an ideologically driven socialist authoritarian state to a multiparty democratic state with a free market economy. Mongolia’s foreign policy emphasized promoting the country’s own national interests as perceived and defined by the Mongolians themselves and reflected in the post cold war 1992 democratic Constitution. The country’s foreign and security policy goals were outlined as follows:

  • primacy of its own vital national interests, while at the same time respecting the legitimate interests of partners;
  • pragmatic, open, multi-track (ii) and multi-pillar (iii) policy;
  • ensuring a favorable external security environment primarily through political and diplomatic means;
  • non-alignment with great powers against other powers;
  • according top priority to good-neighborly and balanced relations with its immediate neighbors; maintaining neutrality in their disputes unless the latter affected Mongolia’s vital interests, in which case it would follow those interests;
  • pursuing a “third neighbor policy” i.e. promoting closer relations with Eastern or Western democracies, international organizations and other stakeholders that support Mongolia’s chosen democratic path and values. When doing so special emphasis needs to be laid on fostering long-term economic interests of the major industrial powers in Mongolia.

Looking back at a quarter century of the country’s political and economic developments and its foreign policy, one can say that the major goals of democratic development, introducing market economy and broadening foreign relations have in general been achieved, though still with some mixed results. Mongolia does not have territorial disputes nor border issues with its immediate neighbors, and fosters relations of comprehensive strategic partnership (iv) with both of them. All three have agreed not to allow the use of their territories to harm the interests of the other two. The neighbors have agreed to respect Mongolia’s choice of its political and socio-economic development. They have also tacitly agreed to its “third neighbor” policy as long as it did not infringe upon their vital national interests. Therefore, Mongolia serves not only as a buffer, but also as a stable partner and a convenient bridge between neighboring nations.

Development of meaningful or pragmatic relations with the third neighbors, be it with the states of Northeast Asia, USA or the European Union, requires first and foremost, developing transport and communications infrastructure so as to allow a greater flow of trade and investment as well as people-to-people contacts. With that in mind Mongolia has proposed a Steppe Road initiative that should logically link up with China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative and Russia’s Eurasian Transport Network policy that would make it a transit state not only by further linking China and Russia, but also serving as a northern transit route linking Europe with Northeast Asia through the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railways. Hence there are talks underway on trilateral cooperation in trans-border infrastructure development. The transit link is expected to provide broader access of Mongolia to world markets and hence to the “third neighbors”. Another form of trilateral cooperation is to include an interested third neighbor and one of its immediate neighbors, based on the common interests of the three parties.

Mongolia and Nuclear Issues

Nuclear power is a double-edged sword. It is fraught with grave dangers as well as provides great opportunities. Mongolia’s location between two nuclear powers makes it imperative to specifically address the issues of nuclear security, both of military nature or connected with the harmful effects of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It could choose either to be passively affected by the perils of the nuclear age or try to play a somewhat active role in shaping its own future, promoting its national interests and reaping, to the extent possible, the benefits and dividends of the peaceful atom. It chose the latter.

Reminder of the risky past

During the cold war Mongolia was involuntarily subject to double cold war pressures: East-West and Sino-Soviet. As a Soviet ally, it hosted Soviet military bases on its territory. In the 1960s, during the Sino-Soviet ideological dispute which later turned into an inter-state one, Mongolia found itself involuntarily involved in their dispute and, by implication, in their military standoff.

When China developed nuclear weapons and the Sino-Soviet dispute resulted in border clashes in 1969, the Soviets briefly entertained the idea, or at least made believe, of contemplating a preemptive strike against China’s fledgling nuclear weapons and weapons facilities so as to delay, if not halt, such an ominous threat to the Soviet Union’s strategic interests. The Soviets at that time not only communicated its intention to its Warsaw Pact allies, but also approached USA for its reaction. Whether a pre-emptive strike really was the Soviet’s intention or a mere bluff to scare or put pressure on China, will become known when archived materials of that time are made fully available. In any case, a pre-emptive strike would surely have had a devastating effect on international relations, especially on Mongolia, since China was well aware of the location of soviet bases in Mongolia and the dual use weapons placed therein. Mongolia’s hosting of Soviet military bases automatically provided military intelligence to the Soviets, including missile tests, early warning or even perhaps targeting data. Hence these bases in Mongolia were prime targets for Chinese military attacks; preventive, offensive or retaliatory. Mongolia was aware that even part of the USA’S nuclear arsenal, most probably based in Japan or on submarines, was aimed at those bases. USA’s negative response to the Soviet “inquiry” and warning of a possibility of such action leading to world war III were important in avoiding a possible catastrophe. Mongolians of that time, including this author, remember distinctly the civil defense drills that were carried out from time to time, including nuclear attack survival drills; how to act, where to get masks, where to go for shelter from fallout, etc.

Mongolia makes an initiative

That is why when the Cold War came to an end and the Soviets/Russians were withdrawing their military bases and weapons from Mongolia in September 1992, President P. Ochirbat, the country’s first democratically elected President, when addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), declared the country a nuclear-weapon free zone (NWFZ) and pledged to secure international guarantees for that status. In June 1994 the State Great Khural (parliament) adopted the first post-cold war national security concept, which underlined the country’s nuclear-weapon-free status as an important element of strengthening its security by political means, laying thus the basis of state policy on this issue.

The proposal’s gist was that Mongolia did not have nuclear weapons on its territory and that, unlike during the cold war, no country near or far would be allowed to place such weapons on its territory. Although this might be seen at a first glance as a selfish act, in practice it meant that no nuclear weapon threat to others would emanate from the vast (v) Mongolian territory. President Ochirbat’s reference to international guarantees implied that the five nuclear-weapon states, meaning US, Russia, China, France and the UK (known as the P5), thus including its two immediate neighbors, would recognize Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status (NWFS), commit to respect the status and thus would not involve Mongolia in their geopolitical calculations, nuclear doctrines and policies. Hence Mongolia’s seemingly selfish act would in fact be a contributing factor to greater regional stability and predictability.

It is usual that heads of state, heads of government or foreign ministers use the occasion to address the UNGA to make important statements and to put forth ideas or peace initiatives. However, most of the statements remain mere statements, while only a few are followed through to their realization. Mongolian President’s statement at that time did not attract any particular attention, including that of the P5. Consequently, it became important for Mongolia to draw the P5’s attention to the initiative and discuss with them the conditions as well as the ways and means for its realization.

The challenge for Mongolia was that as a small NNWS, it had little leverage to interest them, let alone talk with them on nuclear security-related issues. Its main tool or leverage was diplomacy of persuasion, making logical arguments, underlining the morality of the issue, the need for cooperation in the increasingly interdependent world and the general support that the issue enjoyed within the international community. On the other hand, and this needs to be underlined, that the P5 understanding of Mongolia’s policy and their collaboration, though perhaps reluctant, was necessary to move the issue.

Unilateral statements of support

An opportunity to interest and involve the P5 came in 1993. First, in its Treaty on Friendly Relations and Cooperation concluded with the Russian Federation in January of that year, the latter agreed to respect “Mongolia’s policy of not admitting the deployment on and transit through its territory of foreign troops, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction”. That meant Russia’s support for the initiative in principle. Also, that year the P5 approached many states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) for their support of the indefinite extension of the treaty at the forthcoming 1995 NPT Review Conference. When approached, Mongolia linked its possible support for the extension of the treaty with the P5’s express support for its NWFZ initiative. First and foremost, the support of the United States was critical since it was the most influential state among them, (i.e. primus inter pares). Its position would influence those of the other Member States of the P5 (hereinafter referred to as P4). The initial US reaction was that it did not want to commit itself to addressing Mongolia’s initiative beyond offering general political support of the initiative as such. Then after several engagements, the United States expressed its support for the initiative in the form of a separate statement from the State Department. In that statement, USA welcomed Mongolia’s decision to support the indefinite extension of the NPT and stated that as a non-nuclear sovereign state friendly to the US, Mongolia benefited from the former’s positive (vi) and negative (vii) security assurances. Following the US example, soon thereafter the UK, China and France also made unilateral statements of support for the initiative as such. With the unilateral support of the P5, Mongolia believed that proper conditions were in place to engage them to have them make a joint statement of support.

Going for P5 joint support

To start the ball rolling, Mongolia approached each one of the P5 individually with the proposal for a P5 joint statement in support of the initiative. Each of the P5 expressed understanding and support for the initiative in principle, but suggested that Mongolia approach the other Permanent Member States (especially the United States), and that a joint statement could be made if no parties opposed it. Such conduct is informally known as the “football” principle. Applied by the P5 towards novel issues, it is an attempt to win time to consult each other and agree or disagree on a joint response. The initial separate contacts with the P5 also showed that when it comes to novel ideas, they are very cautious even on such a seemingly constructive issue as Mongolia’s initiative. The reason was that they were concerned that Mongolia was setting a precedent for others to follow. For them, any innovation by third parties meant unnecessarily “rocking the boat”. However, their own new initiatives were presented as ‘bold steps’ that would strengthen over-all security. In this case, the role of the “bad cop” was played by France, whose representative declared that it could not support the idea of a joint P5 statement. France was concerned that if it were to issue such a statement, then many of the Francophone states would be surprised by the special treatment accorded by France to Mongolia. There were some other reasons given for France’s reluctance to support the proposal. This included, for example, France’s presidential elections and resultant complete review of its nuclear doctrine at that time.

Turning to the United Nations General Assembly

To move the issue along, Mongolia proposed to have a meeting with the P5 as a group and discuss how to promote the idea at the United Nations, perhaps by having UNGA adopt a resolution in support of it. That proved to be easier said than done. Contacts with the P5 showed that though politically it was difficult for them to oppose the constructive idea per se, following the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 they had no real incentive to further support the initiative. Also there were other psychological and political factors to consider: the mere fact that the P5 would be negotiating with a small NNWS in good standing with the NPT on a nuclear weapons issue was difficult for them to imagine or explain.

The P5 prevents consideration of the establishment of a Single-State Nuclear Weapon-free Zone

Bearing in mind that in 1997-1999 UNGA decided to draft guidelines on establishing new NWFZs “on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the states of the region concerned”, Mongolia suggested drafting of parallel guidelines for establishing single-State NWFZs (SS-NWFZs) so as to prevent the emergence of blind or weak spots in the emerging vast nuclear-weapon-free area. Mongolia presented a working paperviii to the UNGA Disarmament Commission for its consideration. The working paper defined the principles of establishing such zones, the basic elements of a model agreement on such zones and even the stages of consideration of the guidelines. Though Nepal, Afghanistan and some other states expressed interest in the issue, especially after the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons tests of 1998, the P5 was against discussing even the very concept of such zones, seeing it as a distraction from elaborating on regional (i.e. traditional) zones. Privately they cautioned against establishing precedents that could be considered unfavorable to them. The P5 considered possible blind spots as a minor issue compared to establishing regional zones. Since the decisions in the Disarmament Commission are taken by consensus, the P5 were able to prevent substantive consideration of the Mongolian proposal or even making any reference to the concept of SS-NWFZs in the final document. When the guidelines were adopted, they contained only a footnote referring to the fact that UNGA had adopted a resolution on Mongolia’s NWFS. Thus the road to have the issue taken up at a broad international forum was closed by the P5. Mongolia therefore decided to proceed with the establishment of a single-State NWFZ in practical terms, instead of in theory.

Working for a UNGA resolution

In the meantime, the international community, especially the Non-Aligned Movement and the NWFZ states, supported Mongolia’s initiative and its persistent follow-up policy which the P5 could no longer ignore. Some delegates even suggested putting the issue to a vote in the UNGA without bothering to negotiate with the US or other P4, a process they considered likely to be futile. However Mongolia did not need a Phyrric, hollow victory. It was not in a hurry.

Instead, in 1996-98 Mongolia held a number of informal meetings with the P5, especially with the US, which, at times represented the other P4 as well. Mongolia explained that its vast territory - free of nuclear weapons - would be a positive factor in strengthening confidence and predictability in the region. Although this was acknowledged by the United States, it was also pointed out that the establishment of NWFZs was a regional means of non-proliferation and that support for Mongolia would set a precedent for individual states to unilaterally declare themselves SS-NWFZs and expect the P5 to provide them with security assurances, which the US and other P4 were not prepared to do. The US also indicated that proliferation of security assurances would dilute the value of assurances. In the end, the sides agreed to the following: Mongolia would not insist on a SS-NWFZ status but could agree to an undefined nuclear-weapon-free status (NWFS). In return, the P5 could agree to recognize Mongolia’s security interests in a broader than only nuclear weapons context, including its lack of direct access to world markets, its delicate ecological balance, etc. The P5 insisted that they would not, at that stage, agree to any reference to institutionalizing Mongolia’s unique status, since it would, again, set a precedent. That political understanding laid the basis for a subsequent UNGA resolution on the issue.

In October 1998 Mongolia introduced to UNGA a draft resolution, that had been agreed upon with the P5, which was adopted without a vote as resolution 53/77Dix. It welcomed Mongolia’s policy and expressed support for its good-neighborly and balanced relations with its neighbors as an important element of strengthening regional peace, security and stability. As a reflection of the political understandings reached, the resolution invited Member States, including the P5, to cooperate with Mongolia in strengthening its “independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, the inviolability of its borders, its economic security, its ecological balance and its nuclear-weapon-free status, as well as its independent foreign policy”. Also, as according to the political agreement reached earlier, the resolution did not make reference to Mongolia as a SS-NWFZ nor to the “institutionalization” of the status.

National legislation

In February 2000, the Mongolian parliament adopted a law (x) that defined the country’s NWFS at the national level and criminalized acts that would violate that status. It reaffirmed Mongolia’s commitments undertaken by the NPT not to develop or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons. In addition, the law prohibited the stationing of nuclear weapons and their transit through the territory of Mongolia, by any means. Mindful of the importance of the issue for society in general, the law allowed non-governmental organizations and even individual persons, within the mandate provided by the legislation, to exercise public oversight of the implementation of the law and submit proposals thereon to relevant state authorities. The P5 took note of the adoption of the law but did not wish to endorse nor welcome it, declaring that it was an internal affair of Mongolia. In reality they were not supportive of any national legislation that could have unpredictable repercussions for them. In particular, they opposed the law’s verification provision; that if need be Mongolian authorities would, within the country, be empowered to stop, detain or search suspected aircraft, trains, vehicles, individuals or group of persons.

In 2005, the NGO Blue Banner was established with the aim of promoting nuclear non-proliferation and Mongolia’s NWFS, which made use of the provision of the law to “exercise public oversight of the implementation of the legislation … and submit proposals thereon to the relevant State authority”.

P5 joint statement as a setback

Following General Assembly resolution 53/77 D, the abovementioned legislation by Mongolia as well as Russia’s suggestion to provide Mongolia with “appropriate assurances”, in October 2000, the P5 issued a joint statement (xi) providing Mongolia with both negative and positive security assurances. However, the joint statement avoided formally welcoming the legislation, since doing so, they thought, would set a precedent. Mongolia welcomed the P5 joint statement only as an initial positive step in institutionalizing the status. At the same time, it informed the P5 that since the joint statement was a political one that lacked legal force and could easily be rescinded by a subsequent joint statement, it could not serve as a viable security assurance. Content wise, Mongolia thought that it was made in the spirit of the Cold War, by virtually enumerating conditions under which the P4 (except China) (xii) would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against it. It lamented that the substance of the joint statement was in stark contrast with the good-neighborly relations that Mongolia enjoyed with the neighbors and the other P3 (xiii) states. The P5 knew that their ‘one size fits all’ approach was not appropriate in Mongolia’s case. However, they were reluctant to either admit or rectify it.

P5 meaningful joint declaration

Not satisfied with the P5 joint statement, between 2000 and 2012, Mongolia held numerous bilateral, trilateral and multilateral meetings with the P5, persistently pointing out the inconsistency of the very nature of the joint statement with Mongolia’s de facto relations with each one of them. It also pointed out the inconsistency in logic of the P5 joint statement with the ones made at broader international fora, including at NPT Review conferences and preparatory meetings. After years of going back and forth, Mongolia finally agreed not to insist on a treaty that would define its NWFS and provide legally binding security assurances to it, provided that the P5 would jointly pledge to respect Mongolia’s status and refrain from any act that would contribute to its violation. Since Mongolia did not have any territorial, border or other problem or political dispute with its two immediate neighbors and in fact was upgrading its relations with each one of them to that of comprehensive partnership, it agreed that until SS-NWFZ is internationally accepted, it would not insist on a treaty form of assurance. The P5 recognition of the status and their pledge to respect it and not to contribute to any act that would violate that status could, in the interim, serve as an assurance for Mongolia.

The above political understanding took the form of parallel declarations that were signed in September 2012 (xiv). In Mongolia’s view and in practical terms, the P5 joint declaration meant that none of them would involve Mongolia in their future nuclear strategies, including possible defense system(s), or counter defense system(s). In that sense, the joint P5 declaration was not only in the national interests of Mongolia, but also in the interests of regional stability and predictability. It could be interpreted that, through the joint declaration, the P5 reassured not only Mongolia, but also each other regarding Mongolia’s status. Moreover, the P5 in the joint declaration also welcomed ‘the passage” of Mongolia’s law of 2000, thus indirectly acknowledging its importance. The US played a leading role in all the talks and in reaching a mutually acceptable solution. Also, the US provided assistance to Mongolia in preventing possible nuclear and radiological smuggling across its borders by assisting in strengthening its radiation detection capacity commonly known as the second line of defense (SLD).

The next step towards the institutionalization of the status

NWFZs are agreed regional arrangements that enhance confidence among the states of a particular region and consequently strengthen peace and security. Hence the next logical step for Mongolia is to make its unique status a stabilizing factor and a tool in strengthening regional security. For that purpose it organized in September 2015 an awareness-raising and brainstorming ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) workshop on the status. The forum participants showed interest in Mongolia’s innovative approach to NWFZ issues that would, to the extent possible, rule out future blind spots. In addition to this and in view of rapid technological changes, including RMA (xv), the notion of a “nuclear-weapon-free zone” should rule out accepting any part of a nuclear weapons system. This could include surveillance, tracking or homing devices designed to serve nuclear strategic systems.

Raison d'être for active foreign policy

There is a saying in Mongolia that ‘a duck is calm when the lake is calm’. In other words, Mongolia’s interests are best served when the broader regional environment is stable and secure. That is why the country tries to play an active role in the region, especially since it maintains good-neighborly relations with all the countries of the region, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). With due respect to the latter, Mongolia believes that engagement rather than isolation of the DPRK is the key to addressing the region’s main security challenge. The passage of time and DPRK’s visible progress in its nuclear weapons program would only strengthen its bargaining position, which just cannot be ignored or wished away. If not addressed quickly and properly, it will have further destabilizing effect on the region and on the non-proliferation regime in general. Due to ‘ripe’ technological conditions in the region, a “domino effect” is real in the sense that, if a political decision is taken, Japan and the Republic of Korea could easily develop nuclear weapons of their own. The “blame game” and “strategic patience” are not the answer. Only addressing the issue realistically and pragmatically may lead to a solution that is fair to all. Hence engagement and dialogue are needed.

That is the purpose of the Ulaanbaatar security dialogue in Northeast Asia (UBD) initiative proposed by President Ts. Elbegdorj in 2013. It is intended to provide space and platform for Track 1.5 meetings to discuss soft security issues of mutual interest and concern under Chatham House Rules (xvi). Four UBD meetings have been held since, providing a convenient informal setting to discuss soft security issues that were not adequately addressed at the more formal, and currently suspended, Six Party Talks (SPT). Moreover, Mongolia has also expressed its readiness to promote informal exploratory meetings on the possibility of establishing a Northeast Asian (NEA) NWFZ. Following up on that idea, two such informal meetings have been held in Ulaanbaatar that focused on the essential preconditions that need to be addressed if there is to be a serious discussion of the issue.

In June of this year, the Panel on Peace and Security in Northeast Asia (PSNA), an independent group of security experts from the countries in Northeast Asia, the USA and Australia held its second meeting in Ulaanbaatar. The independent panel’s goal is to facilitate political processes by organizing public engagements and presenting timely policy recommendations to create a NEA-NWFZ as an integral element in establishing peace and security in the region. The Ulaanbaatar meeting provided a useful venue and space for a frank exchange of views and ideas on how to pursue this goal in the evolving security environment.

In the same spirit, Mongolian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also supportive of the track-2 efforts aimed to provide a broad space for dialogue among NEA NGOs as well as representatives of DPRK institutions and thus providing, to the extent possible, support to 1.5 track processes, including the UBD initiative. In light of this, Blue Banner, which serves as Ulaanbaatar focal point of GPPAC’s (xvii) NEA network, together with other fellow regional GPPAC focal points, launched a civil society-driven inclusive regional dialogue known as the Ulaanbaatar Process (UBP), in 2015. The process provides a much-needed political space and venue for civil society meetings and interaction. The priority themes are promoting peace and confidence in NEA as well as supporting the goal of establishing a NEA-NWFZ. So far, two such meetings have been held on these issues. The advantage of UBP meetings is that they are inclusive and highly informal, and that NGOs of NEA as well as the United States are represented. The next annual meeting of the UBP is scheduled to be held in August 2017.


In the past 25 years Mongolia has been working patiently and persistently to establish a SS-NWFZ on its territory and acquire security assurances from the P5, including from its giant neighbors. Its policies of “strategic patience” and perseverance have paid off since it felt that time was on the side of greater integration, cooperation and an inevitable trend towards common security and overall prosperity. Today no nuclear-weapon is trained on Mongolia due to its NWFS, while the P5 have committed to respect Mongolia’s status and not to contribute to any act that would violate it.

Mongolia’s experience, though not widely known, shows that all states, irrespective of their size, ideology or religion, geographical or geopolitical location, can contribute to making the world a safer place for future generations. It is clear that the P5 cannot address evenly or adequately the issues of peace and common security. Hence, until a more effective system of ensuring international peace and security is established, other states need to be more proactive and persistent on issues affecting their vital interests and common security, since security cannot be based on blind trust of others or sheer luck. In particular, members of military and political alliances can play a positive role in this regard. A sensible approach, based on mutual understanding, genuine cooperation and mutually agreed upon regional security structure needs to be adopted.

As for Mongolia’s case, the work is still in progress. Mongolia now needs to link its security policy with the security of East Asia and make it an important factor of stability, predictability and mutual regional confidence. It should also find a way of acquiring non-treaty based, (yet viable) security assurances from the P5.

As a country with vast experience in promoting its interests in conjunction with that of others, primarily by political and diplomatic means, Mongolia can contribute to the joint search for ways to achieve greater stability and security in the region by establishing a NEA-NWFZ which will reflect the region’s specificities and interests.

Today, establishing a SS-NWFZ is not a mere theoretical or conceptual issue, but is becoming a reality, Mongolia being its first example. It is becoming a necessity if the world is to become nuclear-weapon-free. There are over one dozen non-nuclear-weapon states that are not under a nuclear umbrella; they also cannot fit in the prescribed traditional NWFZ format. There are many island states and territories that might want to be part of the emerging nuclear-weapon-free world and not serve as “blind spots” or “grey areas” where nuclear weapons or parts of such systems could be placed. They may wish to eschew, contributing to increasing tension and suspicion, or avoid become legitimate targets of nuclear weapons themselves. If the SS-NWFZ issue remains a taboo, it would have a negative impact not only on the states or territories concerned but also on international peace, trust, and stability. Therefore, Mongolia should call for an expert level study on the issue of establishing second generation zones – i.e. SS-NWFZs.

United Nations General Assembly resolution 53/77D adopted on 4 December, 1998: Mongolia’s International Security and Nuclear-Weapon-Free Status

End Notes

i The P5 Member States are: US; Russia; China; UK; and France.

ii Multi-track foreign policy means policies in political, economic, social, science and technology, cultural and other areas.

iii Multi-pillar policy means policies that underline not only one or another area of foreign relations, but attach importance to all areas of relations be it political, economic, ecological, cultural, humanitarian, etc. ‘Third neighbors’ means states that share with Mongolia similar values (meaning democratic values), highly industrialized states as well as the United Nations, the European Union, OSCE and some other interntional organizations. Other pillars include relations with the Asian countries, the United Nations and other international organizations, and other countries with which it had or has close relations.

iv Strategic partnership is a long-term commitment on principles and areas of deepened cooperation in bilateral or multilateral areas of mutual interest, as specified in a joint declaration or other instruments.

v The territory of Mongolia is 1.565.000 km2.

vi Positive security assurance is a pledge provided by a nuclear-weapon state to a non-nuclear-weapon state that it would provide assistance to the latter should it become victim of a nuclear threat or attack.

vii Negative security assurance is a pledge provided by a nuclear-weapon state to a non-nuclear-weapon state that under certain conditions it would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the latter.

viii United Nations General Assembly Disarmament Commission, 1997 Substantive Session. Establishment of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones on the Basis of Arrangements Freely Arrived at Among the States of the Region Concerned – Working Paper Submitted by Mongolia. (A/CN.10/195). 22 April 1997.

ix See annex to this article.

x U.N. Security Council, 55th Year. Letter dated 28 February 2000 from the Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary General. (S/2000/160). Official Record. New York, 2000.

xi U.N. Security Council, 55th Year. Letters dated 27 October 2000 from the Permanent Representatives of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and to the President of the Security Council. (A/55/530–S/2000/1052). Official Record. New York, 2000.

xii China had declared that the unconditional security assurances that it provided to NWFZs or non-nuclear-weapon states applied to Mongolia.

xiii The gist of P4’s (except China) unilateral statements regarding security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states, made in April 1995 prior to the NPT Review and Extension conference, was that they would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on it, its territory, armed forces or other troops, on its allies or on a state towards which that particular state has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by that non-nuclear-weapon state in association or alliance with another nuclear-weapon state.

xiv U.N. Security Council, 67th Year. Letter dated 20 September 2012 from the Permanent Representatives of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General. (A/67/393–S/2012/721). Official Record. New York, 2012.

For Mongolia’s declaration see:

U.N. Security Council, 67th Year. Letter dated 10 October 2012 from the Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General. (A/67/517–S/2012/760). Official Record. New York, 2012.

xv Revolution in Military Affairs.

xvi When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

xvii Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, established in 2005.

Enkhsaikhan Jargalsaikhan
Founding Member, Blue Banner NGO
Ambassador-at-Large of Mongolia in charge of multilateral affairs

In 2008–2012 he served as Mongolia’s Ambassador to Austria and its Permanent Representative to Vienna-based international organizations. He also served as advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He holds a diploma of International Lawyer and PhD in International Law from the Moscow State Institution for International Relations. In 1996–2003 he served as Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the U.N. In 1993–1996 he was the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council of Mongolia. In 1992–1993 he served as the Foreign Policy, and Legal Advisor to the President of Mongolia. In 1988–1992 he was Minister Counsellor, Deputy Chief of Mission, to the Mongolian Embassy in the USSR/Russian Federation. He has published extensively in the areas of security and disarmament studies. He also contributed articles on international legal issues and on the role of small states in international relations. He has a doctor’s degree in jurisprudence (international law).