The month after Clinton's attendance at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Vietnam two years ago, Vietnamese officials were hosted by the USS George Washington aircraft carrier off the nation's coast and the USS John S McCain guided missile destroyer arrived in Da Nang to lead a joint exercise in the South China Sea, the first between the U.S. and unified Vietnam.
While in Mongolia earlier this week, Clinton stated: "My trip reflects a strategic priority of American foreign policy today. After 10 years in which we focused a great deal of attention on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States is making substantially increased investments -- diplomatic, economic, strategic and otherwise -- in this part of the world. It's what we call our pivot toward Asia."
She praised the government of President Tsakhia Elbegdorj for being a model democracy "in territory surrounded by Russia and China" as the Wall Street Journal phrased it, and celebrated recent reforms in Myanmar, now a friend of Washington.
Next month the U.S. will launch the latest Khaan Quest multinational military exercise in Mongolia, which since 2003 have been conducted by U.S. Pacific Command to train local troops for deployment to, first, Iraq and afterward Afghanistan where they serve under NATO command.
In 2006 the exercise included, in addition to U.S. and Mongolian forces, troops from Bangladesh, Fiji, South Korea, Thailand and Tonga. South Korea and Tonga now have contingents attached to the NATO-run International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan along with fellow Asia-Pacific nations Australia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Mongolia itself.
Khaan Quest 2007 included over 1,000 troops from the U.S., the host country, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Tonga.
Khaan Quest 2008 added forces from India, Nepal and Thailand as well as NATO member France.
The next year's exercise included troops from Cambodia, India, Japan and South Korea.
Khaan Quest 2010 involved troops from four NATO nations - the U.S., Canada, France and Germany - as well as five Asian states: Mongolia, India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
Last year's exercise saw American and Mongolian forces joined by those from Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
This March Mongolia became the first country to be granted the new NATO Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme and has since been identified as one of eight members of NATO's new Partners Across the Globe program. The other seven are also in the broader Asia-Pacific region: Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Korea.
Last month The Diplomat reported that China is increasingly wary of U.S. and NATO engagement with and recruitment of Mongolia.
The magazine stated, "while Khaan Quest is becoming more infused with Asian powers, it remains a stage for Mongolia to display its strategic relationship with the United States and NATO," noting that "it remains a stage for Mongolia to display its strategic relationship with the United States and NATO." It mentioned that NATO granting the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme to Mongolia "mark[ed] the formalization of a relationship that has blossomed within the past decade.
In reference to Mongolia becoming NATO's outpost between China and Russia, the source added:
"Cooperation between the two is expected to focus on building up the capacity of the MAF [Mongolian Armed Forces] as well as improving interoperability with NATO troops. Mongolia has been steadily improving its ties with NATO through its commitment of troops during the Kosovo conflict and its current efforts in Afghanistan. There more than 100 MAF currently serving in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. Mongolia also committed troops to the NATO mission in Kosovo from 2005 to 2007."
Less than four months before Hillary Clinton arrived in Cambodia to attend the ASEAN heads of government meeting, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting and the U.S.-ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference, U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Army Pacific led the third annual Angkor Sentinel command post and field training exercises in Cambodia. The exercises are held under the auspices of the Global Peace Operations Initiative, managed by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Khaan Quest 2007 was also assisted by the Global Peace Operations Initiative - to train troops for deployment to Afghanistan - as were the second Shanti Doot exercise in Bangladesh in 2008 and the Garuda Shield 2009 exercise in Indonesia.
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