Japan's Shinzo Abe seeks Mongolia's backing over East China Sea islands
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought support from Mongolia in Tokyo's territorial row with Beijing over disputed East China Sea islands.
Abe arrived in the Mongolian capital on Saturday seeking closer trade and diplomatic ties with the mineral-rich nation, a potentially important strategic partner due to its location on China's northern border and diplomatic ties with North Korea.
"I asked for Mongolian support relating to the Chinese situation, and Mongolia expressed its understanding of the Japanese position," Abe said, referring to the islands that China claims as the Diaoyus and Japan as the Senkakus.
"I understand the Mongolian situation regarding this issue," he said after holding talks with Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag. Abe, a hawkish prime minister who has not held summit meetings with Chinese leaders since he took power in December, also said "the door is open for talks" with Beijing.
During his visit, the first by a Japanese prime minister in nearly seven years, Abe is also aiming to develop closer economic links with his host country.
Mongolia has huge mineral deposits at its disposal, and Japan is aiming to secure more fuel resources abroad after its nuclear power plans were affected following the Fukushima nuclear crisis, triggered by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
"As Mongolia is rich in natural resources, Japan's technological co-operation will lead to a win-win for both countries," Abe said, according to Kyodo news agency.
China is Mongolia's leading trade partner and source of foreign investment.