ULAN BATOR (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper met senior Mongolian leaders on Thursday in a rare visit to the strategically important nation as the Pentagon seeks to implement its strategy of focusing on countering China and Russia.
On a map, Mongolia, locked between Russia and China, best represents the Pentagon’s priorities over the coming decades.
Privilege - Opportunity - Ways - Ties - Countries
“It is my deep privilege to be here, to be with you and to have the opportunity to look at different ways we can further strengthen the ties between our two countries,” Esper said before the start of his meeting with his Mongolian counterpart.
The ceremonial highlight of the visit was when Esper was given a seven-year old caramel colored horse as a present. Esper named the horse Marshall after former U.S. Defense Secretary General George Marshall.
Name - Esper - Horse
“He’s happy, he likes his name,” Esper, standing next to the horse, said.
The horse will stay behind to be cared for in Mongolia, though Esper was given a framed photo of the it. Esper, in return, gave the caretaker a blanket for the horse which is used by the U.S. Army Old Guard.
Esper - Visit - Mongolia - Trip - Defense
Esper’s visit to Mongolia, on his first international trip since being confirmed as defense secretary, highlights the importance the country is seen as playing in the region.
This is the first visit to the country by a defense secretary since 2014, when Chuck Hagel spent about four hours there. Esper spent a night in the capital, Ulan Bator.
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