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North-South summit offered by Indonesia

July 25,2018
Indonesian President Joko Widodo plans to send special envoys to South and North Korea to ask their leaders to attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in his nation next month, which could lead to a third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Widodo will send Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to Seoul as a special envoy bearing a letter officially inviting Moon to the opening ceremony over Thursday and Friday, confirmed the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

“Indonesian President Widodo called the South and North Korean ambassadors [to Indonesia] on April 30 and said that he plans to invite their leaders and recently sent out invitation letters,” a high-ranking government official told the Joongang Ilbo earlier Tuesday. “There are currently discussions on dispatching a minister-level envoy to South and North Korea to again extend the invitations to their leaders.”

Indonesia is also planning to send its special envoy to North Korea around the end of the month.

The 2018 Asian Games, or the Asiad, hosted in Jakarta and Palembang, which is on Sumatra Island, will kick off on Aug. 18.

If a summit between Moon and Kim takes place, it will be the third between the two leaders following their talks at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom on April 27 and a second surprise meeting on May 26.

Widodo on July 10 sent out official invitations to both leaders of South and North Korea, confirmed his spokesman last week.

An Kwang-il, the North Korean ambassador to Jakarta, attended a meeting of ambassadors in Pyongyang last week, and was said to have conveyed Indonesia’s invitation to the Asian Games to leader Kim.

Indonesia has diplomatic relations with the North and an embassy in Pyongyang. An inter-Korean summit on the sidelines of the Asiad could also elevate the games as an international diplomatic stage.

Another government official added, “After seeing the confrontational relationship between South and North Korea last year, Indonesia offered to play a mediating role for a leaders’ summit. Indonesia also had intentions to host the North-U.S. summit that was ultimately held on June 12 in Singapore.”

In a press conference in late April, Widodo said that he was ready to host a summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un, after a meeting with the ambassadors of both Koreas.

Candidates considered as Widodo’s special envoy also included Puan Maharani, the coordinating minister for human development and cultural affairs and granddaughter of Indonesia’s founding president, Sukarno.

“After World War II, North Korea and Indonesia emerged as non-aligned countries,” said Jung Chang-hyun, a North Korea expert who heads a modern history research institute in South Korea. The Non-Aligned Movement was composed of countries that claimed to be not aligned with either major power bloc during the Cold War.

Furthermore, former Indonesian President Sukarno and the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung had a close relationship.

“In 1965, Kim Il Sung and [his son] Kim Jong-il attended the 10th anniversary of the 1955 Bandung Non-Alignment Movement conference in Indonesia,” said Jung. “The two countries had vibrant exchanges between their leaders since the era of Sukarno and Kim Il Sung.”

It was in this 1965 visit that Kim Jong-il, the late leader of North Korea and father of Kim Jong-un, befriended Sukarno’s daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, who was president of Indonesia from 2001 to 2004.

As president, Megawati visited Pyongyang in 2002 bearing a message from then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, urging Pyongyang to resume dialogue with Washington.

But it is unclear if Kim will accept Indonesia’s invitation or send the nominal head of state, Kim Yong-nam, who led the North Korean delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]