02 July 2004

Stormy Seas in Mongolia

James Brooke reports on Landlocked Mongolia's Seafaring Tradition
Mongolia, the world's largest landlocked country, with its capital almost 1,000 miles from an ocean beach, is the latest entry in the business of flags of convenience. With Mongolia's red, yellow and blue colors now flying on 260 ships at sea, this unlikely venture is part business, part comedy and part international intrigue.

"We earned the treasury about $200,000 last year," Bazarragchaa Altan-Od, head of the Maritime Administration, said, slightly tense for his first interview with the world press. "We have 20 to 30 new registrations every month. The number is increasing." ...

Mongolia's maritime niche may be North Korea, which has revived relations in recent months with the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, the former Communist party here. (On June 27, after a parliamentary election campaign that included corruption accusations against the government, the opposition Motherland Democratic Coalition unexpectedly won 36 of 76 seats. A final outcome is not expected until early July.)

North Korea flag vessels increasingly are watched around the world. Under the Proliferation Security Initiative, the United States and a dozen nations started to monitor North Korean vessels in 2003 for illicit cargos, like drugs, missiles or nuclear weapon fuel.
via The Argus

Let's hope the Mongolia-flagged merchant fleet fares better than Kublai Khan's invasion fleet in 13th-century Japan, which fell victim to the kamikaze. (The ships and sailors were mostly Koreans.)
Although noted for his administrative skill and policy of religious tolerance, Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan continued the trend of Mongol territorial expansion. Though he met with success in southern China, the conquest of Japan proved to be a difficult, and ultimately disastrous, endeavour. In 1274 the Mongols landed a large expeditionary force on the Japanese island of Kyushu, but this force was eventually driven off by skilled Japanese warriors. In 1281, the Mongols made another attempt, this time with an even larger force. Approximately 40,000 troops from North China and 100,000 troops from South China were transported in two huge invasion fleets that met and converged off Kyushu. But, unfortunately for the invaders and most fortunately for the Japanese, a colossal typhoon hit the coast, sinking many of the Mongol vessels. About one half of the troops perished or were captured, while those who managed to survive fled back to the Chinese mainland. It was as if the typhoon had appeared at the behest of Japan's religious leaders, who had been fervently praying for deliverance as the invasion fleet approached. It is little wonder that the grateful Japanese termed this particular tempest Kamikaze or "divine wind."
The Marmot's (Final) Hole has more on Mongolia's recent elections, in which the governing "Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party -- the former Communist Party" lost its majority, thanks to a surprisingly strong showing by the Motherland Democratic Coalition.

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