North Korea offers proposal to reduce tensions: Indonesia

JAKARTA (AFP) - North Korea has come up with a "concrete proposal" that could reduce tensions in the region, Indonesia's foreign minister said Wednesday after talks with his counterpart from the North.

"During the discussion, I received one very specific, concrete proposal from the (North Korean) side for us to communicate to the other side," Mr Marty Natalegawa told reporters.

He refused to elaborate but added: "I think it will be very useful to explore to try to create a new momentum to reduce the tensions in the area."

Mr Natalegawa would not say what he meant by "the other side", but later made reference to the long-stalled six-party talks with nuclear-armed North Korea.

The process involves the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia. The talks, which offer the North diplomatic, security and economic concessions in return for nuclear disarmament, were last held in December 2008.

The North announced the following April it was quitting the forum and resuming its nuclear enrichment programme.

Mr Natalegawa suggested that the proposal put forward by Mr Ri Su Yong, who took up the role of North Korean foreign minister in April, involved issues that "have been preoccupying all of us".

"The issue of nuclear proliferation, the issue of ballistic missile launches, the issue of military exercises," he said.

"The proposal is a very good one, it's a very constructive one." Mr Natalegawa did not say when the proposal might be presented to the "other side".

Relations between North and South Korea have been tense in recent months, with Pyongyang angered by Seoul's annual joint military exercises with the United States.

Pyongyang has been playing hawk and dove recently, carrying out an extended series of missile tests since late June while making occasional peace overtures.

Indonesia has generally had strong ties with the North since the 1960s, when the country's two founding fathers, Indonesia's Sukarno and North Korea's Kim Il Sung, developed a good relationship.

Mr Natalegawa last year paid a visit to the North.

Jakarta has often played a mediating role in international disputes, and has based its foreign policy on the principle of having a "million friends and zero enemies".

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