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Horse diplomacy

It' s difficult to remember a visit to the White House that gave more exposure to the colours of the area than Vice-President Biden's visit to Asia, which ends in Japan today. He was dining in a Beijing cafeteria specializing in spicy intestinal broth (he ordered pasta instead and lit a small crowd of tourists who had to create a "Biden Menu " and recruit more personnel the next few days).

As a landlocked country, Mongolia continues to play its lone part as a high plateau democracy, spending a great deal of human effort trying to juggle three heavily breathless allies: the United States, China and Russia. Asked about Rumsfeld's horse, I found that Mongolia distributed steed with verve, according to prevailing politics.

A few grey mustaches in the Foreign Ministry recalled giving the Sovietian commander Leonid Brezhnev and the Rumanian ruler Nicolae Ceausescu a horse. Turns out there were also some smaller V.I.P.s given up. Billy Downs, a Ferndale, Michigan business man, the owner of BD's MONGOLAN BARBEQUE, was presented with a horse in 2004.

Mongolia, like George W. Bush, quickly gives it nicknames: it mercifully names America its "third neighbour". However, today it is even more complex for Mongolia: an ever more self-confident and wealthy China has just produced a notable piece of not too tender force by getting UNESCO to enumerate the Mongol voice of the larynx as a work of Chinese inheritance and not that of Mongolia.

It was hardly any passion for bowshooting that led Biden to make the journey: among other things, his attendance was a memory of non-democratic neighbours that America would disapprove of any intervention in monetary inequality. People in China are in the gift of the gift. A few years ago, when the Taoiseach was visiting Beijing, China gave him two thousand tonnes of grain and a three-hundred million dollar grant.

I never found Rumsfeld's horse. At the end of my journey, the Department of Defence said that the horse was back in the Khentii region, the birth place of Genghis Khan.

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