Indonesia urged to take bigger role in North Korean crisis

North Koreans attend a mass rally to celebrate the nation's declaration on Nov 29 that it had achieved full nuclear statehood. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Indonesia is being encouraged to play a bigger role in finding peaceful solutions for the Korean Peninsula crisis, as North Korea inches ever closer to becoming a nuclear-weapon state.

Speaking at a panel discussion in Jakarta on Monday (Dec 11), Mr Jin Park of the Seoul-based Asia Future Institute (AFI) said Indonesia is in a good position to persuade North Korea to abandon its current course of action, which "does not contribute to peace and prosperity development" in the region.

"Indonesia as a peace-loving country that respects democracy and human rights will certainly play a positive role in bringing the situation to a more stable and peaceful condition," Mr Park said during discussions at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Mr Park said he believed Indonesia would play a positive role through closer engagement with South Korea, on account of the recent upgrade of their bilateral partnership to a "special strategic" status.

South Korean leader Moon Jae In met with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo last month (November) ahead of the Asean summits in the Philippines, with Seoul seeking Indonesia's support and Jakarta endorsing efforts to resolve the conflict with the North through dialogue.

The leaders' talks in Bogor, West Java, also produced an agreement to hold a "2+2" meeting of their foreign and defence ministers.

Mr Park argued that such an arrangement would contribute to a mutual understanding of the security situation in Northeast Asia, emphasising how Seoul remains the biggest loser in a conflict coloured by the volatile interactions between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr Park also pointed out that Jakarta and its South-east Asian neighbours continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. Indonesia had maintained close ties with North Korea since the time of Sukarno, the country's first president.

However, Jakarta's attitude towards the North changed dramatically recently, partly because of South Korea's expanded investment portfolio in Indonesia. Another factor is the worsening sentiment towards North Korea among Indonesians, helped along by the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of the North's leader, in Malaysia earlier this year.

The incident prompted some South-east Asian nations to limit trade, starving the Kim regime of much-needed foreign currency.

CSIS founder Jusuf Wanandi said he believed Indonesia needed to be more proactive about the North Korean nuclear threat as it affects all of South-east Asia.

"South Korea and Asean have to cooperate much closer because one of the outlets for North Korea is South-east Asia. Politically we don't (put on) much pressure, but it is a very friendly pressure," Mr Jusuf said on Monday.

Asean annually convenes the East Asian Summit, one of few forums in which North Korea and other countries can sit down to discuss the nuclear issue. Asean has strongly condemned Pyongyang's continued push for nukes.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain high amid growing concerns that the United States might resort to military action against the self-isolating North or risk dealing with a new nuclear-weapon-wielding state.

According to US intelligence reports cited by Mr Park, Pyongyang is roughly three months away from completing its nuclear weapons programme.

Despite being outpaced in conventional capabilities, Pyongyang has succeeded in developing advanced weapons that include a powerful nuclear device and long-range missiles capable of hitting the mainland US.

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