JAKARTA • Dutch King Willem-Alexander yesterday apologised for the "excessive violence" inflicted on Indonesia during his country's colonial rule, the monarchy's first such admission of regret to the nation.
The apology addressed the violence by Dutch forces during the period from Indonesia's declaration of independence in 1945 until 1949, when the Netherlands recognised it as an independent nation.
"I would like to express my regret and apologise for excessive violence on the part of the Dutch in those years," King Willem-Alexander said at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java.
"I do so in the full realisation that the pain and sorrow of the families affected continue to be felt today," he said in his speech, which was also posted on the website of the Royal House of the Netherlands.
His statement reversed previous Dutch monarchs' stance of refusing to apologise for the Netherlands' past violence in the country.
During the last state visit by a Dutch monarch in 1995, Queen Beatrix was prevented by then-Prime Minister Wim Kok from offering an apology, saying the Netherlands was not ready.
The Dutch government has previously apologised to Indonesia and paid some damages to survivors of the violence carried out during the colonial rule.
In 2011, Mr Tjeerd de Zwaan, then the Dutch ambassador, apologised for the killings in 1947 in a village in the province of West Java.
Two years later, Mr de Zwaan also apologised for the killings in 1947 on the island of Sulawesi.
Last year, a Dutch appeals court in The Hague ordered the hearing of a lawsuit filed by five Indonesians who hold the Netherlands responsible for the execution of their fathers by Dutch soldiers in 1947.
From 1800 to 1949, the archipelago was a colony of the Netherlands and known as the Dutch East Indies. It was an important source of Dutch wealth, thanks to the trade in spices, precious metals and minerals.
During the four-day trip, King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima are set to visit the ancient capital of Yogyakarta and the Sebangau National Park in Indonesia's province of Central Kalimantan on Borneo.
In his speech, the king also offered condolences for seven people killed when two boats collided in Central Kalimantan during preparations for the royal visit.
Indonesia has agreed on new partnerships with the Netherlands on women's issues, peace and security, as well as on the control of contagious diseases, President Joko Widodo said yesterday.
"Of course, we cannot erase the history, but we can learn from the past. It serves as a lesson for our commitment to grow a relationship that is equal and with mutual respect and mutually-beneficial," President Joko said.