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Indonesian Leader Urges North Korea to Reopen Peace Talks With Seoul - 2002-03-29

Indonesia President Megawati Sukarnoputri has urged North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to reopen talks with South Korea to consolidate peace on the divided peninsula.

Ms. Megawati met with the reclusive North Korean leader Friday in Pyongyang, but no details of the meeting were released.

However, at a state dinner hosted by Parliament chief Kim Yong Nam Thursday night, Ms. Megawati said that peace on the Korean Peninsula is important for the stability of the Asia Pacific region.

Indonesia's official Antara News Agency quotes Ms. Megawati as saying North and South Korea must "maintain brotherhood" in the face of a "crisis." Before her trip, Ms. Megawati had agreed to deliver a South Korean request for the North to revive stalled peace talks.

Although Indonesia has had no formal role in mediating between North and South, Ms. Megawati met Mr. Kim decades ago when their fathers, then heads of state, worked together to found the Non-Aligned movement during the height of the Cold War.

Ms. Megawati travels to Seoul Saturday to brief South Korean leaders on her 3-day stop in the North.

After more than 50 years of division, North-South relations hit a high in June 2000, when the two leaders met in an unprecedented summit and agreed to work toward eventual reunification.

But the process has stalled over the past year. Tense relations between North Korea and the United States, South Korea's major ally, have hindered peace initiatives. Pyongyang objected to what it calls Washington's "hardline" approach and was particularly angered when President Bush labeled North Korean part of an "axis of evil," because of its efforts to aquire weapons of mass destruction.

Pyongyang has refused repeated offers to restart nuclear arms negotiations with the United States. However, earlier this week, South Korea announced it would send a special envoy to Pyongyang April 3, ending a fourth month freeze on official North-South contacts.